Örnsköldsvik revitalising a town centre for residents, visitors and retailers - PDF

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Örnsköldsvik revitalising a town centre for residents, visitors and retailers David Widén 1 City Centre Manager, Centrum i samverkan, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden Monica Koch Information Coordinator, Örnsköldsviks

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Örnsköldsvik revitalising a town centre for residents, visitors and retailers David Widén 1 City Centre Manager, Centrum i samverkan, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden Monica Koch Information Coordinator, Örnsköldsviks kommun, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden J. Andrés Coca-Stefaniak Transnational Manager, Retail Enterprise Network, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK October, 2005 The Retail Enterprise Network, Manchester Metropolitan University. Manchester, England. M1 3GH. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research, private study, criticism or review, as permitted under Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, only with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the authors at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GH, England. 1 Please address all correspondence to: David Widén, City Centre Manager, Stora torget 2, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Tel. +46 (0) / +46 (0) Fax. +46 (0) Örnsköldsvik revitalising a town centre for its residents, visitors and retailers Örnsköldsvik Historically, the countryside that surrounds Örnsköldsvik shows traces of human activity from 6,000 B.C with archaeological remains that can still be visited today, including various Bronze Age mounds. South of Örnsköldsvik is Gene the oldest known farm in northern Sweden, built in the first century and fully restored today to its former glory. In the 17th century, German and British explorers reached this region (Ångermanland) and were surprised by the standards of cleanliness of its inhabitants following a visit to a farmer s house at Brösta in the parish of Arnäsvall. Much to their surprise, they found that people used woven linen bed sheets in their beds as a layer to separate the human body from the insulating animal fur. They reported that the bedspreads were also adorned with silver tassels. This level of craftsmanship was well known across Sweden, though, and the parish of Arnäsvall was a preferred supplier of Swedish kings and nobility for many years. Up to the 19 th century, the region of Örnsköldsvik was sparsely populated and its land was used primarily for farming. In fact, rambling cattle would often stray as far as the town of Örnsköldsvik itself. Sightings of cows strolling peacefully along Örnsköldsvik s high street were a common occurrence in these times and people would often find themselves standing eye to eye with a cow as they crossed the threshold of a shop. Ethnically, the first inhabitants of this region were the Sörkörare and the Laplanders. The Sörkörare (literally, those that drive to the south ) were semi-nomadic tribes who migrated in winter from Ångermanland to Stockholm using horse-drawn sleighs. Once south, they would sell linen, furs, barrels of fermented Baltic Sea herring, salt fish, venison and handicraft. In return, they purchased furniture, silver ornaments, paint and luxury goods that they would bring back to Ångermanland and Örnsköldsvik. Their farmhouses were normally painted in characteristically bright colours. The Laplanders, on the other hand, were skilled herdsmen and managed huge herds of domesticated elk and reindeer, which they would often sell at the Örnsköldsvik cattle market. Their tough life in the northern Scandinavian wilderness bred people that liked to enjoy the opportunity of a day in the town to enjoy a drink. This would often escalate leading to spontaneous elk and reindeer races improvised on Örnsköldsvik s high street! In 1842, the Municipality of Örnsköldsvik was founded within the northern Swedish region of Norrland, followed in 1894 by the town of Örnsköldsvik itself. Both town and municipality owe their name to Per Abraham Örnsköld, who held the position of county governor from 1762 to With the arrival of the municipality s structure and particularly as Örnsköldsvik received town status, the character of this frontier town changed progressively. In 1882, for instance, regulations were passed (see Figure 1) which outlawed, among other things, the Laplanders spontaneous urban elk and reindeer races. 2 Figure 1. Örnsköldsvik s first book of town regulations dating back to 1882 (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). Today, the town of Örnsköldsvik has a population of 26,511 with a wider municipality population in excess of 55,000. Although in 2005 the main employers remained The Municipality of Örnsköldsvik (5,659), The County Council (1,539), M-real Sverige AB (1,180) and Land Systems Hägglunds AB (1,100), much of the working population continues to be employed in mining and manufacturing (27%), nursing and health care (17%), retail and communications (16%), and education and research (10%). This is roughly in line with Sweden s national averages, except for the manufacturing sector, where Sweden s average stands at 18%. Örnsköldsvik has a well-reputed schooling system, good nursing and health care as well as good care for the elderly. The area has two universities the Mid Sweden University and Umeå University with a combined full-time student population of 500. There are pleasant housing areas both in the city, in the rural districts and by the seaside on the High Coast (Figure 2), which was granted World Heritage status in All in all, the municipality enjoys some of the best outdoor conditions in Sweden, with 10 longdistance hiking footpaths, 30 outdoor recreation areas, 51 angling sites, 6 canoeing waterways, one national park, 24 nature reserves, one conservation area and 4 slalom ski slopes. 3 Figure 2. View of the High Coast bridge at dusk (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). It is possible to get to Örnsköldsvik using nearly every single means of transport imaginable, including boat or sea kayak. There are also coach services to Stockholm, Luleå, Östersund and Sollefteå. Örnsköldsvik is also a destination point on the Bothnia railway line, one of the largest Swedish transport projects in the twenty first century. Figure 3. View of Örnsköldsvik s spectacular marina and harbour (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). 4 The town centre of Örnsköldsvik is small, compact and ideal for strolling leisurely from cafes to shops and restaurants (Figure 4). In addition to its relaxing harbour and marina, Örnsköldsvik has a wide variety of summer and winter activities to offer to visitors, including a centrally-located ski jump slope (Figure 5) and many familyfriendly mini-golf courses (Figure 6). In 2005, Örnsköldsvik received the Tryggare stadsmiljö ( Safe City ) prize from Svenska Stadskärnor (The Swedish Association of Town Centre Management) for a project where restaurants, police and municipality joined forces to tackle social problems related to drug and alcohol abuse. Figure 4. Pedestrian s area in Örnsköldsvik s town centre (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). Figure 5. Ski jump slope overlooking the Örnsköldsvik marina (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). 5 Figure 6. Urban mini-golf course with one of Örnsköldsvik many conifer pine forests in the background (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). In spite of increasing levels of trade and commerce with its neighbouring municipalities of Härnösand, Kramfors, Sollefteå, Junsele, Åsele and Lycksele, the Birsta shopping centre located in the nearby Sundsvall, along with the city of Umeå, remain some of the main threats to Örnsköldsvik s fragile socio-economic balance in spite of the fact that, uniquely, out-of-town shopping centres are a novelty in Örnsköldsvik itself as the first (Lidl, Willys, Rusta, Jysk) have just been built in the northern edge of the town. The main precedent to the creation of a town centre management scheme in Örnsköldsvik was a negative socio-economic trend that is only now beginning to reverse after years of investment. Between 1980 and 1998, the population of the Örnsköldsvik municipality decreased by 6.43% (3,500 people). In retail and business terms, the trend over this period had not been any better as the area s deficit of purchasing power versus actual purchases grew from million Swedish Crowns to a negative sum of million Swedish Crowns. In order to reverse these trends, the Centrum i samverkan (Cesam) town centre management (TCM) scheme was created in 1997 following public consultation survey carried out with 330 residents. The scheme has been active since August 1998 and follows the wellestablished Swedish model of town centre management by cooperation. Yet, in spite of following a tested model, its goals were ambitions and clearly time bound. Between 1998 and 2001, the scheme aimed to: 1. Increase visitors frequency by 10-20%. 2. Improve visitor perceptions of the town by 50%. 3. Increase the town s retail turnover by 10%. 4. Eliminate vacant outlets in the town centre. 5. Increase land lease prices by 3.5% (though the municipality was against this goal and, as a result, land lease prices have remained the same). 6 In 2003, following a review of the accomplishments achieved up to 2001, it was established that, having achieved the first three objectives (with no change in objectives 4 and 5), a new set of goals had to be set, namely: 1. Increase visitors frequency to the town centre by 38% 2. Increase visitors frequency to the town centre s shops by 30% 3. Achieve a level of 68% positive responses in town visitor perceptions 4. Increase the town s retail turnover by 31% The Örnsköldsvik Centrum i samverkan (Cesam) TCM scheme background and results to date The Örnsköldsvik Centrum i samverkan (Cesam) town centre management scheme was founded as a joint-stock company (not-for-profit) led by another joint-stock (notfor-profit) company Centrumlyftet AB. The acceptance of the scheme by retailers has been very good. Proof of this is the fact that 75% of Örnsköldsvik s retailers are members of the TCM scheme and contribute to it financially through membership fees in spite of the fact that membership is voluntary. This fee system sets individual membership fees for each business according to three parameters location, size of shop, and business turnover. In total, Cesam has 130 fee-paying members with a further 50 retailers who, in spite of benefiting from the scheme s activities, have declined the invitation to become members. A new membership campaign is now under way to encourage full membership of the scheme throughout Örnsköldsvik s business community in view of the benefits that such membership can bring to the town and to business turnover. Membership of the scheme is easy and can be achieved directly through the town centre manager without complicated administration procedures. Any member signs a simple 3-year contract of membership but can cancel it after 2.5 years. Due to the legal framework governing Cesam as a joint-stock company, all members are given access to the TCM scheme s accounts and financial data at the annual shareholders meeting. Given the make-up of the funding of the scheme, Cesam s activities are normally geared towards benefiting both the business community as well as property owners through the creation of a revitalised and more eventful town. In fact, the enthusiasm for Cesam s revitalisation programme is such that, in addition to paying their membership fees, around 60 people volunteer every year from among the business community, property owners and municipal representatives to work actively (and free of charge) on the scheme s activities organised by four major working groups, which include: activities environment supplies inner harbour 7 Many of these volunteers are often recruited as volunteers by Cesam for their specialist knowledge in each of these areas. Every year, Cesam organises around 25 different activities that help visitors and residents alike to experience the town in a more positive way. Additionally, Örnsköldsvik has pride in being part of an open and rewarding network and cooperation with several cities along the coast of Norrland. In this network, information on activities, projects and lessons learnt is shared openly so as to prevent costly mistakes and benefit from synergies between towns. Future cooperation in this network may be extended to activities such as joint tourist marketing campaign for the region. In Cesam s view, no activity is ever entirely new and, therefore, innovation can be achieved both through creativity as well as an iterative process of continuous improvement. An example of this state of mind is Örnsköldsvik s traditional annual fermented Baltic Sea herring festival, which has managed to attract increasingly younger visitors every year as shown in Figure 7. Figure 7. Isac, at 16 months of age, was officially Örnsköldsvik s youngest visitor to the city s fermented herring festival in the summer of 2005 (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). Cesam s management structure and funding mechanisms Cesam is a fairly typical town centre management scheme in terms of the fact that, like many others across the world, it employs a single full-time town centre manager that coordinates all its activities and is instrumental in setting strategic objectives for the future of Örnsköldsvik s town centre. The only other paid employee that Cesam has is an accountant whose services are paid for by the hour. The main partners that form Cesam are made up of the The municipality of Örnsköldsvik, the town centre scheme s retailers and property owners. Their contribution to Cesam s annual budget is 20%, 55% and 25% respectively. The inclusion of property owners in the town centre management partnership is in line with the Swedish model of town centre management by cooperation, which has been adopted by most towns and cities in Sweden with minor variations in each case. 8 All strategic decision-making at Cesam is made through a quorum. The board reflects closely the financing split of the TCM scheme as it is made up of two property owners, two retailers, one representative of the municipality and the town centre manager who is a co-opted member. Citizens of Örnsköldsvik normally participate in this quorum by invitation due to specific skills (e.g. technical or managerial) or their ability to engage in an enthusiastic and constructive way. Figure 8. Fermented Baltic Sea herring stand, where this local speciality is served with Norrland bread, butter and chopped onions (photo courtesy of Monica Koch). Although the scheme does not make use of external funding such as European Union projects or national/regional grants, membership fees cover nearly all activities carried out by Cesam, including wages, rent of office premises and marketing. The only exception to this rule are summer activities, some of which tend to be financed by sponsors. 9 TCM stakeholder arena for representation and voting Retailers Property owners Municipality Other businesses Town Centre Manager (also Chair of the Cesam Executive Board) Cesam Executive Board (consists of representatives from all stakeholder groups); strategic decision-making takes place here Centrumlyftet AB (consists of 5 members of the Executive Board); operational day-to-day decision-making take place here Activities team Supplies team Environmental team Inner harbour team Operational teams Figure 9. Cesam s management organigram. Concluding remarks The Örnsköldsvik Centrum i samverkan (Cesam) is a fine example of a small to medium town centre management scheme which can achieve results on a tight budget and where much of the resources received are in kind, i.e. direct help and expertise offered by members on a voluntary basis. Örnsköldsvik has been particularly successful at combining the Scandinavian love for the outdoors with a diverse and balanced service offer in its town centre. Rather than turning its back on the wilderness that surrounds it, it has harvested the potential offered by its unique location next to a World Heritage site (the High Coast) by making the town centre a gateway to its surrounding natural splendour rather than an urban competitor. As a result of this, Örnsköldsvik is faced with a typical sustainable development dilemma, i.e. how to develop the town and its surroundings socially and economically whilst avoiding major disturbances to its fragile ecosystems. 10 Ultimately, a balance will need to be struck between development and tradition but, in a country that can claim to be the originator of a TCM model of management by collaboration, this should be well within the capability of the management team in charge of Cesam with the aid of networks of town centre managers at national level such as Svenska Stadskärnor. So far, it would appear that, in spite of its constant search for sponsors of new activities, Örnsköldsvik is achieving its goals. In 2001, the town s stakeholders were reassured of their efforts with the achievement of the Årets stadskärna 2001 ( Best City Centre in Sweden Prize ) from Svenska Stadskärnor a true milestone in the town s progress towards a more balanced and revitalised city for all. Acknowledgements The authors would like to hereby acknowledge the contribution of the European Social Fund s EQUAL programme and INTERREG IIIC to the co-financing of this work. 11
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