Strategic Planning in Cordoba

Douglas Keare and Ricardo Vanella, Setembro 1, 1997

The Lincoln Institute is collaborating with the city of Cordoba, Argentina, on a major project to change approaches to and instruments used for physical planning in the city. Cordoba presents an especially interesting case because of its strategic location at the center of the core development area of Mercosur.

The first phase of the project was a three-day seminar held last April titled “Towards an Urban Integrated Management: Implementing a Strategic Plan for the City of Cordoba.” Its main aim was to bring together the principal “actors” in Cordoba to discuss and debate planning goals and instruments in the context of new developments in urban management.

The seminar included presentations by international experts and discussions among municipal officials, developers, business and commercial interests, non-governmental organizations and planning practitioners. The Institute played an important role in providing an open forum for the local participants to come together for the first time to discuss difficult planning and development issues and to begin the process of establishing new management policies and procedures.

Three principal themes emerged from the discussions. The first dealt with prioritizing land to be urbanized, with particular concern for equitable access to land, infrastructure, and housing for the popular sectors, as well as appropriate mechanisms to carry out integrated planning on a regional basis. The second theme addressed environmental and fiscal impacts of large commercial establishments on existing urban structures, historic districts and residential neighborhoods. The third theme focused on various actors and sectors involved in industrial development in Cordoba, with attention given to dispersal of industry, infrastructure limitations, and social and environmental costs.

In addition to giving the Cordovan participants a broad perspective on urban management issues in other cities, the seminar raised two important points: 1) that planning for development is not just about regulation or land use control, but that fiscal and taxation policies are equally important in affecting land values; and 2) that local officials must learn to assess benefits and costs of urban planning projects in order to deal effectively with private sector developers.

The seminar has already had specific impacts on collaborative commercial activities in the historic center and on improved management programs for providing new infrastructure and services while also reducing deficits. In addition, the program stimulated participants to develop an appreciation for the importance of long-term strategic planning in charting general directions for policy changes and in understanding the effects of particular kinds of development on the social and physical environment.

The Institute is continuing to work with municipal officials to help develop new management paradigms that can support more effective private/public collaborations and better analytical and planning techniques. Follow-up programs will assist policymakers and private developers (operating in both formal and informal markets) in better understanding the functioning of urban land markets and the consequences of policy changes for urban development.

The next course on “Land Market Behavior in Cordoba: Implications for the Urban Structure” will explore research on formal land markets in Cordoba, stressing the effects of economic policies and local government interventions. It will be followed by a regional seminar where experience will be shared with participants from at least three other countries. At the same time, the Institute and Cordoba officials are developing a training program directed to a broad spectrum of local and regional officials and developers, concentrating on general management, urban planning, and project preparation and implementation.

Douglas Keare is a visiting fellow of the Lincoln Institute. He has extensive experience in strategic planning for large cities in developing countries through previous research and project management at the World Bank and the Harvard Institute for International Development. Ricardo Vanella is director of the Department of Economic Development for the city of Cordoba.