Commerce as a key factor for regenerating a neighbourhood. In order to make this idea a reality, a group of associations in El Raval, with the support of the City Council, is working on the 'Shop windows, More Than Just Façades project.
Commerce as a key factor for regenerating a neighbourhood. In order to make this idea a reality, a group of associations in El Raval, with the support of the City Council, is working on the ‘Shop windows, More Than Just Façades project. This is a sustainable economic development, training and work-placement initiative with a community perspective. The aim is to intervene in commercial establishments, public areas and also housing, in order to commercially revitalise the streets of the Raval, which should contribute to improving the quality of local residents’ lives.
The first steps of acting on commercial establishments and public areas were taken in 2016, with the creation of the ‘Shop windows, more than just façades’ project run by the Impulsem social initiative cooperative and another cooperative, the Boqueria Taller d’Arquitectura, together with the Fem Raval traders association, and with the support of Barcelona City Council through Barcelona Activa. The first results will be on show in Carrer Carretes this Christmas, along with the nearby streets of Amàlia, Cera and Aurora.
These organisations are currently working on two strategies: the promotion of local and social economy projects, and the promotion of local shops, acting on their shop windows and shutters.
Participation of shop owners
For several months, the team from Impulsem and Taller Boqueria have been contacting the owners of closed shops, as well as those currently used as warehouses. The idea is to reopen as many of these ground-floor establishments as possible, with new economic activities, such as businesses created by entrepreneurs, those with social objectives, those in favour of sustainable and responsible consumerism and those based in the circular economy. For now, the organisers can count on the participation of a dozen El Raval shop owners.
The first step in this direction was getting the owners to cede the use of their shop windows for showcasing the new economic initiatives. Fifteen young people from the neighbourhood will be trained to dress the windows, through a programme created by the two cooperatives, Impulsem and Taller Boqueria.
Shop windows displaying new economic activities
The new shop windows will display the products of new, economically viable businesses promoted by entrepreneurs. The training, which is the social part of the project, is scheduled to start at the end of September.
It should be remembered that the district of Ciutat Vella is also promoting an initiative for creating sustainable economic activities in ground-floor establishments, in the neighbourhoods of Raval Sud and Gòtic Sud. It recently launched a competition for presenting economic-activity projects and another project has now been launched that provides for the acquisition of establishments for the Ground Floor Official Protection programme. It is also a measure that should help fight against commercial and neighbourhood gentrification and the economic monoculture.
The ‘Mucha Fibra’ experience
Over 10 years ago, Virginie Verrier created a non-profit association on Carrer Carretes in the Raval, ‘Mucha Fibra‘, a 250 square-metre workshop where she promotes, boosts and supports activities in the fields of design and fashion. She explains that her objective is to empower people who are interested in this economic activity, so that they can create their own professional project, from the perspective of responsible consumerism. When it was created in 2008, it was also the first co-working project for fashion designers in Spain. It will be one of the establishments used for the interventions carried out in the ‘Shop windows, more than just façades’ project, to showcase the activities and products coming out of ‘MuchaFibra’.
The establishment is a shop, because Virginie designs and sells her own collections. It is also a co-working venue, as it offers other entrepreneurs the opportunity of working and creating there. It is a training ground, because they run courses on dressmaking, from basic to expert levels, basic needlework, creating bikinis, leather goods, underwear, fitness clothes, embroidered gemstones and patterns, among others.
Every year, Virginie also organises a seminar or workshop, with the participation of fashion-design specialists, who transmit their knowledge to professionals from Spanish firms who attend the events. And lastly, through agreements with fashion schools, students attend the establishment to gain first-hand experience of the basics of the industry and the job market.
On her own initiative, Virginie Verrier reached agreements with the owners of shops in her street seven years ago, allowing her to place plants on façades all along Carrer Carretes, giving the area a cared-for appearance. There are now around 90 plants around the neighbourhood. They are watered with the support of various local residents. Gestures that create new perspectives of the street.