Finalization of the ReNewTown pilot project in Velenje


Renovation of the public space in a housing estate in Velenje is one of four pilot investments financed within the ReNewTown project. ReNewTown pilot investments were planned to be model solutions for typical problems of urban areas built during the socialist period in Central Europe. The overall aim of all four investments is to improve living conditions of inhabitants by applying innovative and effective action which may be an example to follow in other post-socialist cities of Central Europe.

Before implementation, the pilot investment area in Velenje was a poorly maintained children’s playground located between blocks of flats on Koželjskega street in the local community of Gorica (one of the multicultural parts of the city). The public space is 3,386 m2 and is surrounded by six residential blocks.

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Picture: Public space before renovation

The socialist era is commonly stigmatized and any positive aspects of the period are usually ignored. One of the social values rooted in the socialist period of Velenje’s development was voluntary work for the solidarity and sake of the community. The city of Velenje was excessively developed in the 1950s and 1960s - both the infrastructure and administrative and housing units in the city were built with the help of volunteers.

The basic concept of the ReNewTown pilot project developed in Velenje was to take advantage of this socialist tradition and based on it, to involve inhabitants in the revitalization process. Thus, the ReNewTown pilot project has two main goals:
- Creation of a multi-functional public space catering to the needs of all generations
- Strengthen the local community by facilitating the intergenerational and multicultural dialogue and increase the involvement of citizens in taking care of their place of residence

The project was preceded by consultations and a survey with inhabitants examining how the public spaces should be developed and inhabitants’ willingness to participate as volunteers in the revitalization project. The survey covered 39% of the housing estate’s residents. Based on the survey, the most important information obtained is that as much as 71 % of the respondents are willing to voluntarily assist in the implementation of the pilot action. The survey results showed that people are mainly interested in construction of the playground (74% of responses), followed by space for sport and recreation (14%), the park (11%) and others facilities (1%).

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Picture: Volunteers at work

The pilot project was started in summer of 2012. The materials needed to complete the project were financed by the ReNewTown project from the ERDF. Physical work on the construction was mainly done by volunteers. From July 9-13, 64 volunteers accomplished 1,567 hours of work to make their neighborhood a nicer and friendlier place to live. The project was supported with 38,500 EUR from EU funds.

The opening ceremony was attended by the president of Slovenia, Danilo Türk. The event attracted the interest of both local and national media. The president highlighted the importance of intergenerational solidarity at different levels, including housing estates, which gives citizens hope for their present and future well-being. He stressed that Slovenia has a good tradition of solidarity, which includes the enthusiasm experienced after the Second World War. Velenje has become and still remains a symbol of solidarity and a strong will to build a future together.

The help of volunteers in the implementation of the ReNewTown pilot project in Velenje continued the spirit of volunteering and presented it to Slovenia and Europe as an example of good practice.

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Picture: Public space after ReNewTown pilot project implementation


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