Vinnytsia as a case study

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Vinnytsia is a city in the southwest of Ukraine on the banks of the Southern Bug River, administrative capital of the homonymic region, the largest city and the most important economic and cultural centre within the historical region of Podolia. The city is located inside the triangle composed by the three first-order cities of Ukraine: Kyiv (199 km), Lviv (200 km) and Odessa (345 km), pretending to be an alternative growing node for surrounding region. As of early 2016, the population of the city amounted to 373 thousand persons. It puts Vinnytsia on the 12th position in the list of the largest cities in Ukraine by population. Also, it is the 2nd (after Lviv) most populated Ukrainian city to the west of Kyiv.

Vinnytsia has long and comprehensive history. The first mention in written sources dates back to 1363. During the centuries of existence the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (until 1565), Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1565-1972), Russian Empire (1972-1917), Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917-1920, twice being the seat of government), the Soviet Union (1920-1991), and independent Ukraine (since 1991).

Nowadays Vinnytsia is well-known for rich historical, cultural, and architectural legacy, including inner city architectural ensemble, memorial estates of famous Russian surgeon Nikolai Pirogov and Ukrainian writer Mykhaylo Kotsiubynsky, Adolf Hitler’s military headquarters “Werwolf”, light-musical fontain Roshen (the largest in Europe). The city’s economy is based predominantly on food industry (including two Roshen confectionary factories), but also machinery, woodworking, pharmaceutical industries and, in recent years, IT-sector and tourism. In public opinion, Vinnytsia is perceived as an economic and political domain of current Ukrainian power holders, i.e. President Petro Poroshenko, Prime-Minister Volodymyr Groysman, former Vinnytsia Mayor, and related political and business structures.

The long history of spatial development determines heterogeneity of the urban space. The latter includes  historical downtown with both sacral and civil Modern and Baroque architecture as well as art pieces of Soviet constructivism and Socialist Classicism, typical Soviet dwelling district with brick and panel houses, typical “hruschovkas” and “brezhnevkas”, new dwelling districts planned and constructed during the last decades, large areas of private housing occupying nearly a half of the city, numerous industrial areas, including typical grey-fields and brown-fields; vast green recreational zones, including parks, botanical gardens, and forest parks. This heterogeneity of urban space is quite important because it means increased probability of different type of conflicts.

Moreover, nowadays Vinnytsia survives rapid changes of urban space caused by accelerated urban development during the last decade. These changes are not limited to renovation, but often include upgrade and modernization, including renovation of historical architectural heritage together with promotion of local identity, new housing construction; substitution of traditional markets and pop-up retail with modern shopping malls, boom of street-art (murals, 3-D pictures, and forged sculptures), as well as modern forms of urban greening and landscape design. Obviously, the high pace of spatial transformations generates thee need to the development of new and to the adjustment of the old planning decisions; these also is very yielding background for urban planning conflicts.

Another reason to select Vinnytsia as a case study is due to good municipal practices that raised the city in the top of many Ukrainian ratings. Vinnytsia was recognized as the best city for life in Ukraine (2013, Journal “Focus”; 2015, Rating Sociological Group with International Republican Institute). Vinnytsia is a leader by the level of public satisfaction with the municipality (2016), quality of administrative services (2016), cleanliness, urban environment, and public services (2016). The city for the first time in Ukraine has tested so called “transparent offices”, i.e. single window centres providing administrative services, and twice won the national contest of the best municipal practices. The city has successfully implemented mechanisms of participatory budgeting. Therefore, we may reckon on easier interaction with stakeholders of the studied conflicts and hope that the results of our TRIPAR project would be requested by municipality and therefore have direct practical value.

It is worth noting also that Vinnytsia presents an example (quite rare for Ukrainian cities) of competition between urban planning solution and willingness to implement international experience in the field of urban planning. In particular, the municipality was dissatisfied with the existing General Plan elaborated in 2012 by the Ukrainian State Planning Agency “DIPROMISTO”, and invited independent experts of integrated transport and urban planning from the Swiss planning agency “Van de Wetering Atelier für Stadtebau”. They, working closely with the local department of urban planning, local partners and stakeholders, developed the “Integrated Strategy for Urban Transport and Spatial Development of the City of Vinnytsia”. It should be noted that this strategy was elaborated with a special emphasis on effective participation of all key groups involved in the strategic development of the city: departments of transport and infrastructure, urban planning and landscape, City Council, local experts, representatives of educational institutions, and NGOs. This competition in realm of urban planning, together with participative practices and attempts to find really effective planning solutions also make Vinnytsia a promising case for our study.

After the screening of local media, we decided to focus on the two urban planning conflicts that took place in Vinnytsia quite recently.

The first conflict burst out due to construction of high-tech shopping mall “Cloud” in the downtown of Vinnytsia in the direct proximity to the Holy Virgin Roman Catholic Cathedral, local heritage-listed building, a part of Capuchin Monastery dated 1745. Local government explained the construction by the need to hide an unappealing facade of enormous Soviet Ukrtelecom Technology Facility. But local activists and history experts put forward the argument of complete incompatibility of the future mall and existing urban environment in terms of historical value, architectural style and functional load. Moreover, new shopping mall closes the view of the Holy Virgin Cathedral from the Central Bridge, decomposing in this fashion the historical urban scenery. Also, construction works could damage the footing of the Cathedral and the system of underground passaged behind.

The second conflict is related to the renovation of school stadium in Vyshenka residential neighbourhood. The municipality signed an investment agreement with the private developer to involve private finances into renovation of school sports infrastructure on a mutually beneficial basis. Consequently, the developer was obliged to upgrade the school stadium at its own expense, but in return received part of school grounds for construction of high-rise apartment houses. Therefore, the school and the adjacent residential neighborhood should have received updated sports infrastructure, while the developer should have made a profit from the sale of new-built apartments. However, after the public hearings, the officials decided to make amendments to the initial project and to swap places of the new residential construction and a new sports ground. In the result, the local residents and public activists objected the project for the following reasons: 1. Real area of new sports ground should have been significantly decreased causing functional inequality of the old and new sports grounds; 2. Repeated public hearings were not carried so the opinion of interested citizens was taken into account only partially; 3. Municipality and the developer hide the real construction plans from the citizens: they openly talk about one high-rise building in the stadium, but the planning documentation depicted, in fact, two high-rise buildings; 4. Residential development in the area of the former stadium is illegal because it was defined in the current General Plan as a sports zone; 5. Suspicion of violating construction rules while placing both residential house and new sports ground.

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