Impacts of urban renewal policies : the case of Tarlabaşı-İstanbul

Sakızlıoğlu, Nur Bahar
Istanbul of 2000s has experienced a shift in urban policy approach from leading and maneuvering uneven, excessive and speculative urban growth, towards managing ‘urban transformation’ that has been put implementation with urban (re)development / renewal / regeneration / revitalization initiatives. To examine the rise of these new policies for ‘urban transformation’ in Istanbul of the 2000s for the entire restructuring of the city is the first and comprehensive aim of this study. In this respect, the political economic, social, dynamics that lied beneath the policy shift toward urban transformation and the associated alterations in the institutional and legislative configurations are discussed. Besides, a categorization of the extant ‘urban transformation’ projects in Istanbul with different scopes and aims is provided and lastly the main elements and impacts of the urban transformation projects in the city are evaluated. The second and main aim of the study is to investigate the underlying features and intents, impacts of the new urban policies designed to renew the historical neighborhoods of Istanbul with a specific focus on the role of the municipal government as the key actor in the process. Attached to this, it is specifically targeted to examine the relationship between these new urban renewal policies, strategies and gentrification in inner city historical neighborhoods. To this end, the case of Tarlabaşı renewal process, a deprived neighborhood in the old commercial and cultural center of Beyoğlu-Istanbul, is analyzed giving detailed accounts on the renewal approach and the municipality’s attitudes towards different stakeholders in the process, the initial impacts of the project in the neighborhood and lastly on the relation between renewal initiative and gentrification. Embracing a qualitative methodology, the study makes use of variety of data collection techniques, namely semi-structured in-depth interviews, document analyses, media analyses, participant and direct observations. Based on the analysis, the study firstly evaluates that the rise of the new policies, programs for urban transformation/ renewal in Istanbul of the 2000s refers to a new phase in the unplanned and highly uneven urbanization experience of Istanbul, which has been shaped by the neoliberal policies for more than twenty years. It also suggests that this new urbanization phase has been shaping with an approach, which sidelines the social aspects of urban transformation on behalf of the rent-oriented project implementations, plans that would make the urban redevelopment sector attractive for inter/national investments and which paves the way to the rewriting of the uneven urban development that would potentially result in the accentuation of the polarizations between the winners and the losers in the redistribution of the urban rents created as the result of these projects. Based on the analysis regarding the Tarlabaşı renewal process, it is suggested in the study that renewal process in the neighborhood initiated by the municipality with a cultural and tourism based renewal strategy has been shaping with rent- oriented approach which excludes the social aspects of urban renewal. Leading the process, municipality has embraced an entrepreneurial attitude towards the investors and a selectively inclusive, encouraging one towards the property owners. However, the tenants, the groups with no legal tenancy status and the marginal groups, all of which constitute the majority of the neighborhood population have been the social groups that the municipality has not taken as the addressees but rather excluded within the renewal process. The initial implications of the renewal proposal at the neighborhood level have been speculative increases in the real estate prices, heightened interest of the big capital groups for renewal investments in Tarlabaşı and an emerging appeal and interest of the middle classes for a living in Tarlabaşı etc. Once these impacts are evaluated in relation to gentrification, the study argues that the renewal process that has been experiencing in Tarlabaşı is preparing the infrastructure for gentrification in the neighborhood as the result of the municipal initiative. Urban renewal plans shaped by the municipality do not include any social mechanisms, measures and programs to prevent the displacement of the low-income and marginal groups living in Tarlabaşı in this process, rather encourage a radical change in the socio-cultural profiles of the residents to create a ‘new’ Tarlabaşı as a prestigious cultural center in the city. In this sense, the study argues that this deprived, sociospatially stigmatized neighborhood in the historical city center is being created as a gentrifiable one with the municipal intervention in this renewal process. While such a trajectory of neighborhood change pinpoints the potential reproduction of the uneven development process that has carried Tarlabaşı to the thresholds of renewal through this new renewal policy, it leaves the low-income disadvantaged groups living in Tarlabaşı to face the very tangible problem of displacement.


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Citation Formats
N. B. Sakızlıoğlu, “Impacts of urban renewal policies : the case of Tarlabaşı-İstanbul,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2007.