Arlequin’s urban renewal: the long struggle of its inhabitants

For many years, inhabitants of La Villeneuve (Grenoble, France) have resisted the urban renewal project promoted by the French agency of urban renewal. In reaction to the lack of consultation, a bottom-up initiative has been organised in the neighbourhood through the Popular Workshop of Urbanism. Based in this emblematic popular neighborhood, this initiative began in 2012 and has taken an active role in the local political change that resulted in the election of an ecologist, left-wing citizen municipalist coalition in 2014. The Popular Workshop of Urbanism is involved in the national campaign for new policies in the banlieues, which has led to the creation of a citizen council in each popular district and the obligation to “co-produce the urban project” (Law Lamy, February 2014).

However, the second urban project in La Villeneuve is still promoting a top-down approach and plans the demolition of one hundred social housing units. In this context, the residents continue to resist and claim “what is done for the inhabitants without them is actually done against them”. In March 2017, they organized a week of transition from the official Cities in Transition Biennale in la Villeneuve and participated in the Right to the City encounters organized by the Geopolitics Festival in Grenoble School of Management.
During that week, inhabitants and social movements organized various events and actions with the participation of national, european and international organizations. We denounced the demolition of social housing units but also the broader phenomena of financialization, the “smart city” narrative, gentrification, and the current neoliberal city paradigm, all of which are also impacting the popular neighborhood. This initiative shows the importance to build a strategic alliance between grassroot movements and international networks to implement the Right to the City and contribute to create a European agenda of action.

Article by David Gabriel, Popular Workshop of Urbanism.


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