The municipality of Pavlos Melas is situated in the Northern Greece, in the Region of Central Macedonia, in the northwestern part of Thessaloniki - the second biggest city in Greece. Since the first systematic habitation in the years of the refugee settlement in the wider area of the north-western Thessaloniki, the advent of new populations at different time intervals has extended the city’s urbanized and inhabited surfaces, creating urban pockets of residency with unique social characteristics where particular urban planning was applied. The 60% of the total area of the municipality today is urban and populated. The immediate proximity with major entry and exit transportation axes of the city has resulted to the existence of industrial and manufacturing units, many of which today are abandoned.
Pavlos Melas municipality, with the 80.50% of its workforce working in the tertiary sector, is among the municipalities with the highest rate of unemployment in Greece. Moreover, the municipality is considered as a deprived area and it faces challenges in addressing issues of continuing poverty, high rates of vulnerable social groups, low percentage of green area per capita ratio (currently being at 3.78 m2/inhabitant), air pollution and lack of opportunities for economic growth. At the same time, the municipality could have great opportunities of development by the incorporation of open innovation in its urban regeneration strategy to address its challenges and achieve environmental, economic and social revival. The integration of the former camps into the life of the city, the development of an urban green network including its peri-urban zone, the promotion of the cultural and historical identity of the city are recorded among these opportunities. The EU Green Deal strengthens the need for innovative processes to meet the city's challenges and take advantage of its opportunities for sustainability and resilience.
Undoubtedly, nature-based solution strategies have a crucial role in sustainable development. Natural capital can provide the much-needed holistic approach to policy making. In this respect, Pavlos Melas Municipality has included in its 5-years strategic plans nature-based or related to nature-based solutions for a sustainable, resilient and resource efficient urban development. In this context, many urban and peri-urban projects of NBS and green infrastructure have been completed or are implemented. The key projects are bioclimatic regeneration of public spaces (squares, school yards, pocket parks), energy saving intervention projects, energy saving lighting projects, a “green core” of 5000 m2 in a degraded area, a green roof in a school complex of 6.042 m2 project, a peri-urban open air cultural center and water park and the Urban Botanical Garden of Pavlos Melas to support biodiversity (with 5000 m2, over 1000 different plants). These NBS or related to NBS projects have been motivated by the need to protect the environment, to promote resource efficiency at urban level, to incorporate nature in the city and to promote sustainable development. NBS projects are entirely governed by the municipality and its departments. The projects management concerns mainly their maintenance.
So far the scale of NBS completed in Pavlos Melas municipality is small. The first big scale NBS in the municipality is the Metropolitan Park of Pavlos Melas. Due to its metropolitan character and its large scale, the regeneration project has the potential to become a groundbreaking exemplar on the national level of how a wide range of benefits (environmental, social, economic, sustainable management) can be found in investing in green (re)development. However, innovative governance models, financing and entrepreneurship opportunities and effective assessment are the main issues to tackle related to NBS.
The municipality of Pavlos Melas is located in the Northern Greece, in the Region of Central Macedonia, in the northwestern part of Thessaloniki. The municipality faces challenges in addressing issues in environmental, economic and social cohesion section. Through nature-based solutions, Pavlos Melas municipality intends to achieve environmental, social and economic benefits.
The flagship nature-based solution of Pavlos Melas municipality is the creation of Pavlos Melas Metropolitan Park on a former military camp (about 33 hectares) located in the dense urban fabric. Due to its metropolitan character and its large scale, the regeneration project has the potential to become a groundbreaking exemplar on the national level of how a wide range of benefits can be found in investing in green (re)development.
At the same time, Pavlos Melas camp is an important historical place for the community memory and local identity, that nowadays is considered an ‘Urban Gap’. In order to reverse the situation, the municipality has focused on a co-created strategic regeneration plan that was co-created with key stakeholders and citizens through an extended public consultation process. The transition will be achieved unleashing its potential as a valuable natural resource, historical site and driving force for economic growth, job creation, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.
The project first phase (A) focuses on the environmental upgrade of the open space and the appropriate infrastructure construction to ensure accessibility and safe public use. It is estimated that phase A will have been finished by 2023. Next phase(s) projects will focus on the renovation of buildings, loading the Metropolitan Park with a diversity of uses & functions. The project will focus on the renovation of the preserved buildings (no new construction is permitted) and further development of outdoor spaces.
The participation of Pavlos Melas municipality in the CONNECTING Nature partnership (June 2017) as a fast-follower city was the most crucial transformation point. The CONNECTING Nature framework has been applied by the municipality as a novel process of strategic planning to transform the former military camp into the flagship nature-based solution of the city. During the Planning phase, Technical Solution and Business Model were the prioritized structural elements of the framework.
The basic target is the creation of a metropolitan park that will be a natural resource in the urban environment and not just a green infrastructure with sports and recreation facilities. Preservation of the physical characteristics of the former camp and the protection - promotion of its historical identity, were the basic design principles. The cultural and historical identity of Pavlos Melas Metropolitan Park is the key element for the place ownership and social inclusion development. However, through peer-to-peer meetings and communication with Genk, as a Front Runner City, other cities and UEL, it was recognized that ongoing adaptation of the technical solution will ensure long term sustainability and resilience.
In the framework of the project, the Business Model Canvas workshop, the Nature Based Enterprises Platform webinars and the ongoing calls with the related partners emerged new perspectives for the sustainability and resilience of Pavlos Melas Metropolitan Park.
In addition, Connecting Nature processes (Co-production and Reflexive Monitoring) and knowledge transfer procedure helped Pavlos Melas team to recognize that multi-level synergies are necessary to support this multi phases program of such a big scale.
At the same time and taking into account the minor monitoring and evaluation capacity in Pavlos Melas Municipality, the Impact Assessment Plan training program was a great opportunity to identify the most appropriate indicators and to design the evaluation plan of Pavlos Melas Metropolitan Park in order to support nature-based solution impact towards future funding.
The creation of the Metropolitan Park of Pavlos Melas on the former military camp of Pavlos Melas is the flagship nature-based solution of the city. Pavlos Melas ex-camp is a place of special historical and environmental value for the city. For the last two decades, its concession and public reuse have been strongly claimed by the administrative mechanisms of the Municipality and the local community. The demands are closely linked to the values of the place. The green area of the camp can significantly contribute to the improvement of the quality of life. The promotion of its multifaceted historical value is a critical factor and an important contribution to the historical-cultural identity of the recent transitional years of Thessaloniki. The ultimate goal of the project is to highlight these values.
The text of the ex-camp concession from the National Defense Fund to the municipality of Pavlos Melas states that the program development aims at the integration of the former camp into the urban fabric and social life of the city, as a supra-local green space, and at the same time, the camp protection and its promotion as a cultural heritage site. Hence, strategic planning aims initially to create a green space that will bring nature to the city and protect the site identity. However, through nature-based solutions, which provide sustainable, cost-effective and flexible alternatives of multiple purposes, Pavlos Melas municipality intends to achieve environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits at the same time and to transform the Metropolitan Park of Pavlos Melas into an urban open innovation core. This transition will be achieved unleashing the ex-camp’s potential as a valuable natural resource, historical site and driving force for economic growth and job creation, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.
Pavlos Melas Metropolitan Park strategy is legally binding since, it is connected to existing policy plans and official documents. The project was included in the Operational Program of Pavlos Melas Municipality 2015 – 2019, in line with its goals to transform the city into a friendly, resilient and sustainable place to live. According to this strategic plan, five sectors were prioritized:
- protection and improvement of natural and urban environment,
- services for social support,
- improvement of educational, cultural and sports services,
- support of local economy, entrepreneurship and reduction of unemployment,
- improvement of public services' delivering, with the empowerment of administrative ability.
The NBS project is also included in the current Operational Program of Pavlos Melas Municipality that is under development.
Based on the ex-camp concession terms and after consultation with the city, the Municipality of Pavlos Melas carried out a guideline and programming document, the "Strategic plan for the regeneration of the former Pavlos Melas camp in a green space of metropolitan scope", that was approved by the City Council. Following the directions of the Metropolitan Park strategic plan, the Special Spatial Plan was prepared for the determination of land uses and in general the urban planning in the area of the former camp. The Special Spatial Plan included in addition to the main urban planning, Geological Suitability Assessment, as well as Environmental Impact Assessment. After the approval of the strategic and urban planning, the Ex-ante Study of Economic Viability was finalized as an additional step towards the completion and specialization of the relevant decisions and submitted for approval to the municipal council.
The regeneration of the former military camp will deliver multiple benefits and co-benefits both to the local municipality of Pavlos Melas and the wider metropolitan city of Thessaloniki, such:
- More nature into the city
- Increased green space per capita ratio (currently being at 3.78 m2/inhabitant)
- Protection / enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystems
- Reduction of the “heat island” effect
- Reduction of the air pollution
- Decrease of the noise created by the adjacent streets
- Climate change mitigation – acting as CO2 sink
- Water management and flood control
- Enhancement of human wellbeing
- Improvement of the citizens health
- Contribution to social cohesion
- Promotion of the cultural and historical identity of the region
- Awareness /knowledge on the environment and sustainability issues
- Green economy opportunities
- Enhancement of NBE
- Strengthening of the local economy
In Pavlos Melas municipality many urban and peri-urban projects of NBS and green infrastructure have been completed or are implemented. The key projects are bioclimatic regeneration of public spaces, energy saving intervention projects in sport centers, energy saving lighting projects, a green roof in a school complex of 6.042 m2 project and a peri-urban, open air cultural center and water park. These NBS or related to NBS projects have been motivated by the need to protect the environment and to promote resource efficiency at urban level. In Pavlos Melas Municipality, the capital expenditure costs of green infrastructure projects have been financed mainly from national funds and EU structural funds, while the respective ongoing operational costs are included in the annual budget of the municipality. Concerning the governance structure, NBS projects are entirely managed by the municipality and its departments. Since no actions to create added value have been undertaken and no collaboration with private sector has been developed, the projects management concerns mainly their maintenance. The absence of need, culture or relevant legislative framework led to the operation of the public sector without external collaboration or even synergies with non-public bodies.
Connecting Nature has crucially improved the capacity of the municipality to handle major Nature-Based Solution issues as well as has strengthened the ability to cope with Nature-Based Solution business model and governance. In parallel, the staff of the municipality is highly qualified, knowledgeable about sustainable development transition goals and needs of the city, has expertise in environmental, social and economic policies and strategies and more than 15 years working experience. In accordance, the municipality possesses adequate number of skilled employees, as well as external advisors and collaborators at city, regional and national level, to assist the project, apart from the project team. That is, there is the possibility to use additional personnel when a necessity arises.