Urban policy financialization in mega-projects. The case of Milano Innovation District


  • Alberto Bortolotti Politecnico di Milano


Large-Scale Urban Planning, Financialisation, Milano, urban policy




Urban mega-projects are key policy instruments (Salet, 2007; Flyvbjerg, 2014) for connecting financial and real estate markets through the financialization of large-scale strategic lands and the 'deterritorialization' of actors, decisions, and strategies. In that sense, such projects can be seen as ‘levers’ capable of welding the objectives of the financial market to the real estate industry, particularly by converting land-value capital into financial capital following the logic of business plans tailored by property developers and their investors. Moreover, urban mega-projects are underpinned by the role exercised by local governments in enabling the financialization techniques (Tasan-Kok & Ozogul, 2021) that tailor property business plans forging masterplans (Tasan-Kok, 2010). Milano is currently characterized by multiple large-scale operations pursued by global developers and investors. Among these, the Australian developer Lendlease is pursuing the renewal mega-project of the former EXPO site, named Milano Innovation District (MIND). This article aims to problematize the MIND exemplary case study treating such an urban mega-project as an urban policy itself by reconstructing its spatial development through interviews, field observations, desk analysis, and generalizing the outcomes of this in-depth analysis. Particularly, this article frames the deterritorialization practices through which pursuing urban policy (and planning) financialization, building up on the financialization academic literature, and intertwining real estate and spatial planning fields (Fainstein, 2008; Salvini & Aalbers, 2016). Thus, this article discusses the role of (state) strategic planning in addressing urban development and policies, arguing that financialization depowered the capacity of spatial planning to recapture land value and rebalance urban rent.  In essence, the financialization techniques for collecting capital and delivering urban mega-projects have deterritorialized the governance of urban transformations, compromising the spatial government led by public authorities through the decrease of strategic planning practices and the goverance of such operations through public procurement techniques and legal contracts which enhance new codes of capital and market dependence (Raco & Brill, 2022). 


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