The socio-spatial integration of knowledge districts into the city: Theoretical clarifications and evidence from Belval, Esch/Alzette

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Submission Summary
The regeneration of derelict urban areas by large-scale development projects presented as “knowledge-based” is perceived as a major policy and planning objective and as a potentially fruitful opportunity to trigger regional growth dynamics. However, it raises many questions regarding the integration of these knowledge districts into the city. Critical academic contributions have pointed at the potentially harmful consequences that these new-built redevelopment projects can have on the neighbouring districts, such as the marginalization of local communities and the growing socio-spatial inequalities that can be induced at the scale of the city. Others claim that these knowledge districts can constitute isolated, elitist neighbourhoods and thus completely fail regarding the initial objectives of socio-spatial integration and regional development. However, there are diverging conceptions in the scientific literature about how socio-spatial integration is understood and how it can be assessed by a holistic analytical framework. We argue that socio-spatial integration is a multidimensional concept that can be analysed through complementary approaches. In this paper, we first present our theoretical framework created to disentangle the complex integration concept. Secondly, we focus on a structural approach to the concept, which analyses the (dis)similarities between neighbourhoods and measures to what extent the social structure of a new-built knowledge district differs from the urban framework which it is attached to. To do this, we focus on the case of the Belval “Science City” in Esch/Alzette, Luxembourg, which is a large-scale and publicly driven urban project gathering the University of Luxembourg and an ecosystem of knowledge-intensive institutions. An indicator-based analysis clarifies the existing structural dissimilarities between the knowledge district and the adjacent neighbourhoods by addressing (i) the socioeconomic and sociodemographic structure, and (ii) the population’s feelings of belonging to the city of Esch/Alzette. Results show that the structural dissimilarities between the knowledge district and other neighbourhoods are significant. However, they are mainly due to the specific profile of the population who is attracted by this knowledge district (international and young professionals), while other factors, such as the socioeconomic standing, are not significant. Additionally, low electoral participation rates indicate that residents are not interested in taking part in local elections, which seems to suggest a low attachment to the city as a whole. This paper thus provides insights into the structural disparities that exist between old and new neighbourhoods in the city and shows to what extent they are deepened by the creation of a knowledge district.
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5: Uniqueness and connectivity. Al-Baraha: unlocking urban futures
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PHD Candidate
LISER Luxembourg

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