At the interface between port and city, often occupying structures that were left behind by the continuous up-scaling of the logistical activities in the port, new pools of skilled workforce see the light. The jobs in these Local Job Generators take both advantage of the nearby passing material streams and the maritime skills that might remain -linked for instance to ship repair or the work with wood or metal. They sometimes develop synergies with the nearby neighbourhoods in terms of job placement and training (e.g. food processing, furniture making) as well as in the type of products that can be handled locally, like repurposed textiles or electronics. And sometimes they operate as autonomous zones, entertaining relationships with areas well beyond the close-by neighbourhoods.
A quick geographical description
The port-related activities have always been a major pillar to urban economies and an important job provider. Before the port scaled up and left the city, the populated districts surrounding it could rely on a continuous demand for mariners, stevedores, coopers, shipwrights, merchants, and related crafts. They became places of arrival, attracting newcomers in search of a better life. Some of this know-how has stayed in the same place, preserved in the operations of specific companies, and some of these districts continue to function as places of arrival.
Observed advantages and disadvantages
The good connection between the old port and the adjacent neighbourhoods makes this building block a good attractive pole for new investors and entrepreneurs, especially for labour intensive activities that do not require vast spaces or sophisticated infrastructure. Furthermore, publicly funded programs exist both for renovating the 19th century urban legacy and for generate jobs for the often shortly trained and/or long-term unemployedpeople inhabiting those places of arrival. Despite its spatial advantages linked to mixed use and the existence of waterways, they are often underexploited.
Different situations analysed
This building block can manifest into different scales: sometimes it involves an entire neighbourhood, creating synergies between the local economy, the community networks, and the port, while some others it works self-sufficiently, concentrating its activities within a single plot. In contrast to the Islands of Urbanity or the Incubator, this building block is located inside the city, or straddling the port and the city. Additionally, contrary to the Knowledge District, this building block is people-driven instead of technology-driven, aiming to train and employ as many people as possible. Some case-studies, as Westpractice within the M4H in Rotterdam, have been able to foster a high-end professional work environment while helping people coming from low socio-economic or educational backgrounds to enter the labour market.
Analysis - the generic case: what activities can be found here?
The local job generator takes different forms. It can be organized inside a parcel or be part of a wider neighbourhood. In this last case, the building block might be used as an urban regeneration tool, attracting enterprises and residents to the vacant spaces left by economic stagnation once the port left the area in search of bigger docks, deeper waters or looser environmental constraints.
Eventually, some of those activities will keep a lint to the port economy and will work as “stitches” between the port and the urban dynamics. They often include makers activities and tend to “mine” the urban zone in search of secondary materials like textile, wood, electronics or construction leftovers for either reuse or to upcycle them.
Towards more circularity: what are the ongoing initiatives?
01 New retail spaces for reused products that help to increase the visibility and appealing of used items. This type of commercial offer exists for garments, books and high-end electronics (like smartphones or tablets), as well as through online platforms. Creating a physical place for display and exchange will lower the barriers that currently prevent a wider public from opting for those used or repurposed goods. A location nearby an old port area can sometimes provide bigger surfaces at affordable rents (e.g. NDSM-Werk, Amsterdam, NL).
02The opportunities for employment that the circular economy offers depend to a large extend on the training and re-skilling of workers, to adapt to shifting markets and changing demands for knowledge and skills that range from waste management to digitalization and creative industries (e.g. CF2D, Brussels, BE).
03A local job generator needs to integrate other facilities than the ones directly attached to job creation and performance, which range from nursery homes to restaurants to last mile logistics (cargo velo….). They help creating the right conditions and activate the area throughout the day.
04Marketplace for salvaged materials (bank of materials), provided with local refurbishing services. Mechanical recycling of small-size components could be made onsite, but some processes releasing hazardous substances should be avoided given the proximity of residential quarters (e.g. BUURMAN, Rotterdam, NL).
05Workshop for upcycling used consumer items (garments, furniture…) or repairing and repurposing a fraction of e-waste (domestic appliances and other discarded electronics, from computers to phones), possibly complemented with typical FabLab equipment, like a 3D-printer and other computercontrolled machinery (TechShop Leroy Merlin, Lille, FR).