Connecting Nature Framework report for Ioannina city

Area characterisation: 

Ioannina is the capital and largest city of the Ioannina regional unit and of Epirus, an administrative region in north-western Greece. According to the 2011 census, the city population was 65,574, while the municipality had 112,486 inhabitants. It lies at an elevation of approximately 500 metres above sea level, on the western shore of lake Pamvotis. Ioannina is located 410 km (255 mi) northwest of Athens, 260 kilometres (162 miles) southwest of Thessaloniki and 80 km (50 miles) east of the port of Igoumenitsa in the Ionian Sea. The city's foundation has traditionally been ascribed to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, but modern archaeological research has uncovered evidence of Hellenistic settlements. Ioannina flourished in the late Byzantine period (13th–15th centuries). It became part of the Despotate of Epirus following the Fourth Crusade and many wealthy Byzantine families fled there following the sack of Constantinople, with the city experiencing great prosperity and considerable autonomy, despite the political turmoils. Ioannina surrendered to the Ottomans in 1430 and until 1868 it was the administrative center of the Pashalik of Yanina. In the period between the 18th and 19th centuries, the city was a major center of the modern Greek Enlightenment. Ioannina was ceded to Greece in 1913 following the Balkan Wars In recent times, the city has become the centre of three particular functions. It is home to two large regional hospitals. Over the last decade, the university and technical college have fused, to create the University of Ioannina with a 30,000 strong student body. Finally, it is home to a number of key agricultural activities including poultry (~70% of Greece’s demands), dairy products (representing a large share of the Greek market) and mineral water (~50% of Greece’s market). The territorial economy is an important vector for change. While roads have opened to both Athens and Thessaloniki in the last years, cutting travel from a full day down to a few hours, and the airport has gained more regular schedule, Ioannina’s age-old spirit persists. There is a fairly reactive approach to problems. Tourism is poorly defined and there is a serious risk that mass-tourism will bring more trouble than it is worth. There is attraction from European business to build on the city’s university and educated graduates yet there are no clear programs for hosting new business. The two large regional institutions, the hospitals and the university, are largely disconnected from the old city. Finally, there is a challenge to inspire social entrepreneurship, where the community plays a larger role in developing projects that concern them.

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Pirsinela Park is a neglected park located in the urban boundaries of the city. It is considered to be the largest area of existing greenspace (almost 250.000 m2 ). The site contains a forest and several built infrastructures, which are currently in decay. Historically, this region used to serve as the green and entertainment hub of the city, offering opportunities for physical activities (running, tennis) and access to nature. However, the last fifteen years the park has been totally abandoned, due to a legal dispute between the Municipality of Ioannina and the Greek State over the ownership of the land. Finally, the Municipality has dealt with the ownership matters and as we have already been informed the Pirsinela park is one of the first line projects for the new government. The municipality of Ioannina has the ambition to make the park more accessible and to revive its cultural use, while doing so in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. In this ambition, the municipality will focus on the main part of the park. The planning phase of the Project was concluded with the completion of a Public Consultation Process for determining the key characteristics of the restoration of the Park, which led to the development of the Management Plan of Pirsinela Park, approved by the city council. The delivery phase of the Project (which we are currently on) started with the securing of the fundings for the work. The next step in that phase is the tendering process for the external contractors working in the Project, that is scheduled to be finished in the first semester of 2022.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

The exemplar project for Ioannina city is the restoration of Pirsinela Park, popularly known as ‘the living room of Ioannina’. The objectives of this exemplar project are outlined in the list below: • Connecting nature-people: restore the experiential relationship of residents with the largest green park in the city. In terms of architectural planning, some focal points are: redesign the existing lanes, add new paths, stops and special areas of interest throughout the park, improvement of the overall park structure.

• Connecting people: Turning the park into a hub of a multitude of cultural, sports and educational activities. The aim is to promote social cohesion through a variety of opportunities that will arise from the different uses of the park.

• Connecting nature: Conservation, protection and further enhancement of the park's green space based on resilience.

 Sustainable economic development through the integration of commercial and social actions in the site. Possible value outcome: job creation, increase in the value of the land property, revenue for the Municipality, increased number of visitors. Upgrade the quality of city’s life, by providing a neglected park with historical significance to the citizens. The Restoration of Pirsinela Park is directly linked to the general agenda for sustainable urban development of the city, as part of the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Urban Development described in the previous chapter. Moreover, the Management Plan of the Pirsinela Park, developed after a public consultation process, was approved by the city council and the restoration plan secure a funding of 10M € by national funds (and specifically by Greek Recovery Fund).

NBS benefits 
  • Restoring ecosystems and their functions
  • Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures
  • Increase quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures
  • Increased cultural richness and biodiversity
  • Enhancing sustainable urbanisation
Financing: 

Both capital and operational costs of NBS projects in Ioannina city to date have been financed by the same sources: a. regional municipal budget b. national public investment plan (government grants) and c. government and EU co-funding programs. NBS projects are usually managed by the Municipality of Ioannina (Mainly by the Technical Department or the Department of Green Spaces). There have been also cases where a programmating agreement has been created between the Municipality of Ioannina and other public bodies (such as the Region of Epirus and the Ministry of Culture), in order to foster synergies for the co-design or co-operation of a project. In limited cases, there have been public-private partnerships, that is long-term contracts between a private party and the Municipality, for providing a service, in which the private party bears significant risk (as every 4 years the administration may change, the decisions taken from the previous administration may not be followed by the new one, making it a risky investment environment for private investors to invest within municipality) and the Municipality carries the management responsibility. One major challenge concerning financing and business models of NBS projects to date is the bureaucratic Greek legislation (a lot of different and conflicted laws and Decisions, many different Agencies and Ministries have to issue an opinion). In terms of governance, one challenge already faced is how to bring together and connect different public actors, in order to overcome co-production issues (with main problems being the lack of experience from all parties, as this form of governance is not common in the city resulting in mistrust issues in the process). For the Pyrsinela Park, the Municipality has secured a budget of 10M € through the National Recovery Fund.

Sustainable Development Goals 
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reducing Inequality
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals