International Workshop: Developing Ideas for Zorrotzaurre

Collaborative Governance for District Management workshop, March 24 and 25, Bilbao

Author: Alejandra Castro

The regeneration of Zorrotzaurre Island is one of the largest and most ambitious urban regeneration projects of the last decades in the city of Bilbao, Spain. It aims to transform the former peninsula from a post-industrial landscape into a vibrant and dynamic innovation district housing clusters of technology, higher education, and culture. 

A concept for the masterplan has already been developed, but there is the looming question of how can the actors involved in Zorrotzaurre develop a governance model that will allow the formation of networks of innovation and collaboration, and how this model can be sustained over time, supporting the creation of new governance structures among stakeholders as newcomers arrive into Zorrotzaurre. 

In the context of the T-Factor project, the Local Coalition in Bilbao along with the TU Dortmund University expert group designed a workshop with the objective of providing an arena for a first dialogue between the key actors of this transformation, those who are in a position to influence Zorrotzaurre’s governance. The objective of this workshop was to bring these actors to the table and provide them with evidence-based examples of successful collaborative governance models across Europe, which could inspire them to begin discussing how collaborative governance can help Bilbao reach the goals it has for Zorrotzaurre.  

4 Case studies from European cities

This workshop event was prepared as a follow-up activity to act upon the results of the report “Collaborative Governance Models for District Management” created by TUDO for the Bilbao Local Coalition. This report presented a portfolio of 10 case study examples in cities across Europe, which developed a model of collaborative governance to manage districts in processes of urban regeneration. The Local Coalition selected four of these cases to be looked into with further detail through the workshop. The representatives of the organizations that were selected by the Local Coalition were invited to speak in the event, and they are as follows: 

  • Sophie Witzke from Orestad Innovation City Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Helena Holmberg from BID Gamlestaden (Gothenburg, Sweden)
  • Svenja Noltemeyer from InWest District Cooperative (Dortmund, Germany)
  • David Martínez from 22@ Office (Barcelona, Spain)


The first three speakers presented European examples of collaborative governance models on the first day of the workshop, and they comprised the majority of the day’s agenda. The Spanish case was presented on the second day, in a focalized session with Bilbao government officers. 

Ørestad Innovation City Copenhagen 

This district management model sits in the context of a national strategy for sustainable development and involves and matches a large number of students and companies. Currently, they are tackling the challenge of place-making for the residents of this new quarter through arts and particularly, music.

BID Gamlestaden – Gothenburg

The Gamlestaden model is a cooperation between an association and the Municipality of Gothenburg that has taken a bottom-up approach in its formation. 

One of the key learning points from this case was that the municipality, through its Social Welfare Committee, is a key actor in its management and development. The success of this model is demonstrated by its replication across Sweden. 

InWest City Cooperative Dortmund

This cooperative, self-organized and made with the purpose of managing storefront vacancies throughout the regeneration process of Union Quarter in Dortmund, has found a successful mechanic in how to manage vacancy in the city, striking a balance between temporary uses and long-term ones. It offers an inspiring example of how governance structures can be a critical asset in navigating bureaucracy and normatives for temporary use implementation. 

22@ Office – Barcelona, Spain

The session offered by Mr. Martinez focused on narrating Barcelona’s story and its reinvention through the 22@ denomination of land use, which triggered the creation of a new type of innovation quarter in the city. This talk detailed how the municipality managed to create the frameworks and arenas to bring all actors involved in the process and work together towards a consensus of strategy and intention in the 22@ district in Poblenou, Barcelona. 

Invited guests

The workshop was planned primarily for two groups of guests: Bilbao government officers and local and international experts. The Bilbao invitees represented 20 municipality offices and public companies that are related to urban planning, economic development, culture, citizen participation, and circular economy. The guests from the Italian delegation represented the Association of Tuscan Municipalities (ANCI Toscana) as well as representatives from urban planning departments in the region, and two city deputy mayors. In addition to these guest groups, the event was also attended by experts from University of Arts London, and members of the T-Factor consortium. 

Between municipal delegations, speakers, and expert groups, there were 45 attendees to the event.