Resource-based inner-city redevelopment after Corona: Actors, alliances, and urban scenes


  • Agnes Förster RWTH Aachen University
  • Christina Jimenez-Mattsson RWTH Aachen University
  • Daniela Karow-Kluge RWTH Aachen University


inner-city structural change, city-management, empowerment of actors, urban scene, Aachen




Even before the coronavirus pandemic, urban centers were facing the challenge of adapting. The Corona crisis acted as a magnifying glass on this development. It reinforced ongoing trends that, together with the growth of online retailing and changes in work and leisure patterns, have triggered further profound structural change in city centers. For example, the pandemic in the city of Aachen has increased the vacancy rate in the city center, with negative effects on the surrounding area. At the same time, the city center is of paramount importance for Aachen's vitality, identity, and international appeal.

The ACademy (AC is the city of Aachen's license plate) is a joint project initiative founded in 2021 by an interdisciplinary team from RWTH Aachen University's Built and Lived Environment profile area with an administrative team from the Citizen Dialogue and Urban Development, Planning and Mobility Infrastructure departments under the leadership of the City Management.

The work of the ACademy is based on three interconnected initial theses for the development of Aachen's inner city: 1. new alliances and cooperations - from coexistence to new synergies, 2. inner city vitality in the triad of the perspectives of use "everyday", "special" and "productive" inner city and 3. inner city change requires a change of actors - linking a spatial-functional and a management perspective.

The three initial theses and their interrelationships form the basis for both the ACademy process and the development of a conceptual framework. In the following, the inner city is understood as an interaction of "urban scenes". In short, an "urban scene" is

- an inner-city spatial context that can be experienced by users,

- whose characteristics, as perceived by urban users, are created by the interplay of public urban spaces, buildings, uses, services, people, and atmospheres,

- and therefore has specific qualities and a recognizable profile as well as interdependencies in interaction with the adjacent inner city spaces.

As a format, the ACademy follows the approach of a platform that initiates the development and exchange of knowledge between the university, the city administration and other people, groups, companies, etc. active in the city center. The ACademy enables a learning, cooperation and design process that is open to development and complements ongoing urban planning processes and instruments to inner-city development with low threshold, networked and sub-spatial approaches and impulses.

The ACademy aims to build up new (action) resources and skills for inner city development. A particular challenge in shaping transformation is to gain orientation and to develop and ultimately pursue paths to joint action, even in times of increased uncertainty and complexity. Linking the resources and expertise of various stakeholders plays a particularly important role here. The cooperation between RWTH and the City of Aachen within the framework of the ACademy is a first step and the opening and further development of the ACademy process with many other interested and actively contributing stakeholders - whether merchants, individual committed citizens, responsible persons in public and public welfare-oriented institutions, city politicians and students - is a second step towards increasing the resilience of Aachen's city center.

In addition to this stakeholder and process perspective, the ACademy's interdisciplinary approach examines the potential for use and development in the built and lived space of the inner city. It deliberately interweaves different instruments and management approaches in the city center - from the dormant potential of built spaces to sub-spatial management approaches.


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