FIG Working Week 2000, 21-26 May, Prague

Public-Private Partnership in Urban Redevelopment, Quo Vadis?

Where does it go?

Working together for now or living together for better and worse?

by Erik Jan Kleingeld

Key words: Public Private Partnership, Urban Regeneration, Area Management. 


In the Working Group Urban Regeneration of Commission 8, often projects have been discussed in which Public Private Partnership played an important role. Once introduced as a miraculous medicine for dead locks in inner city projects, now this principle is put in to practice widely. And the first opponents are standing up and the first doubts are being heard.

In this lecture, Erik Jan Kleingeld, project manager with Seinpost Adviesbureau, a Dutch consultancy firm on inner city problems, looks for clues. At first he will illustrate the present discussion. Secondly, he analyses the background and work out some different formulas for public private partnership. Next, he will take his position in the discussion and come to a conclusion that puts the future of public private partnership in a new light.

1. The History of Public Private Partnership

Public Private Partnership was invented as a new principle when the building projects became more complex. In the city, this was the moment the inner city (re)developments had more often a multi-functional programme (for instance shopping malls combined with residential buildings). A second field of implementation was the urban regeneration, where the private parties often delivered the creativity and the commercial impulse the neighbourhoods needed. The third origin of the public private cooperation is where the private developer had to be willing to cooperate in a partnership with the city to be considered as the party for profitable developments.

In this way, a wide variety of forms of public private partnership have been put into practice, always meeting the definition of Mc Nulty, ppp being a sustained collaborative effort between the public and private sectors, in whic each contributes to the planning and resources needed to accomplish a mutually shared objective.

Most recently the trend of Community Investment meant a new impulse to public private partnership. This is where the commercial organisations like to earn a socially correct reputation and therefore seek a way to invest in socially week neighbourhoods. With such investments, cooperation with the public sector often is inevitable.

2. Criticism to Public Private Partnership

Introduced as a miraculous medicine, after years of practice in different projects public private partnership is faced now with criticism. And in different projects the parties now have ended their partnership, accusing each other of breaking the commitment to the mutually shared objective. In the lecture some examples will be given. The parties fall back to their original role: the public sector makes the plans and sets the regulations, the private parties either wait for the opportunity to play their role as a developer, or play their role as owner or user. They tell each other: you do your job, we do ours. Also to be described as the effort of both the public sector as the private sector as well to pursue their own objectives .

This will not mean that parties do not cooperate. But cooperation and partnership are different concepts.

3. Different Formulas of Public Private Partnership

As I stated, a wide variety of partnerships have come into practice. In this lecture they will not be classified according to their legal structure of organisation. The differences in goal, or, the mutually shared objective, will be the factor of discrimination. I want to illustrate these differences by the two different approaches, implemented in the regeneration of two streets. One is the Witte de Withstraat in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where the Neighbourhood Development Cooperation plays the coordinating role in the radical intervention that is being carried out. The other street is the Ostenfelderstrasse in Bottrop, Germany, in which a not much less drastic project is being carried out.

An important factor in the partnership is the mutually shared objective. The most successful approach is often that the more the objective is aimed on the long-term, the more integrated the partnership is organised. On the realisation of a specific project, parties can cooperate, or even put up an common organisation, but the partners will not be sharing a problem really. The management-oriented organisation, or process-organisation, is more complex, often integrating the participating parties, and has more decisive power itself, compared to the project-organisation. The first form is clearly more a partnership, a contract between parties with mutual risks, and mutual benefits. The latter one is more a temporary relationship, working together for now, but the split up is often already planned at the beginning.

4. Critical Factors 

We have seen different forms of partnerships, successful and unsuccessful. The unsuccessful projects cause reactions of criticism. Often the cause of the lack of success is the misinterpretation of the difference between a project and a process.

Regarding Community Investment initiatives, it is also important both parties make the decision either to focus on some specific projects, or to strive after a cooperation for the long term. Cities, eager to attract private investments, often have more long term expectations than the commercial enterprises do intend. But these private parties do have to realise that neighbourhood investments by definition have a long term horizon, otherwise their effort is not much more than an other well fare action.

The worst thing to happen is that the only thing the public and the private parties get out of their mutual initiative, is an (other) frustrating experience. And that is the last the most needing neighbourhoods are waiting for.

ir. Erik Jan Kleingeld
Seinpost Adviesbureau B.V.
Rosestraat 123
NL-3071 JP Rotterdam
The Netherlands

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