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Urban regeneration of a heritage city

Norte, Portugal

RegioStars 2012 FinalistThe architectural, cultural and social decline in the Portuguese city of Vila do Conde has been reversed through an innovative and integrated urban regeneration programme.

The old centre of Vila do Conde in northern Portugal features a wide range of remarkable historical monuments which, along with its cultural environment, has always attracted a vast range of artists and men of letters.

Located 30 km north of Oporto city, Vila do Conde is an important industrial centre, fishing port, and tourist area. In the 1980s, however, due to the decline in major industries that for years ensured its prosperity, Vila do Conde encountered a cycle of decline and deprivation, combined with a dwindling population and serious deterioration of its ancient heritage.

To counteract this deterioration of the socio-economic and urban infrastructure, the Municipal Council of Vila do Conde, in partnership with the European, national, regional and local authorities, developed an integrated programme of urban regeneration, with a view to mobilising and combining all agencies and support tools available. This resulted in the implementation of the ‘Rediscovering Vila do Conde’ programme between 2000 and 2010.

Integrated urban regeneration

A core aspect of this programme centred on enhancing cultural heritage through the integration and recovery of important buildings in the historic centre of Vila do Conde - the ‘Identity Anchor Poles’ - and their use in activities primarily related to culture and creativity. Major improvements were made to the historical centre, the waterfront, and the seafront of the city.

New ways of promoting creative and cultural activities to strengthen the identity of Vila do Conde were also introduced, working in close partnership with key regional and local actors.

The regeneration process has been innovative with the adoption of many new techniques in the construction and development of public spaces and facilities. Regional and local agencies as well as the general public have been involved in the various phases of this urban regeneration initiative.

The success of the integrated urban regeneration programme and its various actions have been recognised regionally, nationally, and internationally through multiple awards and, in particular, winning the prestigious ‘Novo Norte’ prize in 2011.

International recognition and publicity

The achievements of the integrated programme are also evidenced by the broad national and international recognition of the city’s brand of culture and creativity, in particular hosting the prestigious ‘International Short Film Festival’ during the first weeks of July when Vila do Conde becomes the epicentre of the film market, attended by developers, industry and public.

Activities undertaken under the project increased social cohesion, as the differences became an element of individual valuation, reinforcing the integration of the population - including the ethnic minorities - in the regenerated urban context. Crucially, the demographic decline of Vila do Conde since the 1980s has been reversed.

The experience gained in developing the project, as well as lessons learned through contacts with other European cities, have built up a ‘knowhow’ which has been applied to other cities through the URBACT I municipal action programme, in which Vila do Conde has been an active participant.

The close involvement of all the partnerships that provides much of the programming and animation is key to the future sustainability of the integrated action in Vila do Conde.

Total and EU funding

The project “Rediscovering Vila do Conde: Integrated Programme for Urban Regeneration” has a total eligible budget of EUR 18 289 329 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 8 874 716 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.


Technical information

Total Investment

EUR 18 289 329

EU Investment

EUR 8 874 716


Municipality of Vila do Conde
Praça Vasco da Gama
P-4480-840 , Vila do Conde
Councilwoman of the Municipality
Sara , Lobão
Tel.: +351 252248400
Fax: +351 252641853


“ON.2 - O Novo Norte” Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013
Rua Rainha D. Estefânia, P- 251,
P-4150 – 304 , Porto
President of North Regional Coordination and Development Commission and Manager
Carlos , Lage
Tel.: +351 226086300



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