Some of the commercial axes of Barcelona will promote the creation of the Areas of Economic Promotion (APEU) from 2021 after the Parliament approved in December the legislation that develops and regulates them. The new areas will be public-private collaboration entities with the aim of revitalizing and revitalizing urban commercial areas and industrial estates. In the case of Barcelona, the axes of Sant Andreu and El Born are the ones that have the most defined idea of creating their APEUs and being pioneers.
The Law of Areas of Economic Promotion (APEU) had been studied for years and was finally approved in the last plenary session of Parliament. A large majority of deputies voted in favor: C’s, Junts, ERC and PSC, while the PP abstained and the commons rejected the text. A peculiar situation, since, in the case of Barcelona, which has a City Council co-governed by communes and PSC, the Department of Commerce, led by the socialist Montserrat Ballarín, is one of the firm defenders of the instrument. “It is clear that the path will be taken to promote all the APEU that can be promoted under the law,” they said from this municipal area.
The idea shared by the main commercial entities of Barcelona, the Barcelona Comerç Foundation and Barcelona Oberta, the commerce area of the town hall and the Department of Commerce of the Generalitat is that to preserve and modernize the commercial axes a new management model is needed. . In other words, to leave behind the tradition of trade associations – based on the voluntary contributions of its members – and public subsidies, which, in addition, have decreased by 48% in the last ten years, according to the Generalitat.
APEUs are the adaptation of the IDB (Business Improvement District) that emerged in Toronto (Canada) in 1969 and was eventually developed in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. In the early stages of the millennium on his way to Kingston (London). The first in Germany was set up in Hamburg in 2004 and from 2005 the trade promotion model was extended to other cities and countries, such as Sweden. In Spain, Madrid approved the Entrepreneurial Initiative Zones in 2014 and similar projects have been approved in both Navarre and Valencia.
Although in Catalonia there are more than 100,000 shops –before the pandemic– with an activity that represents 16% of GDP and that employ more than half a million people, the level of associationism is low, around 40 %. In addition, it is based on low fees paid only by those who want it. The aim of the new instrument is for traders to promote a revitalization project for a certain period of time – four or five years – and provide a mandatory annual fee, including the company without a business with a direct door to the street.
In order to approve an APEU, the favorable vote of the simple majority of the traders of an axis and, later, that of the municipal plenary session is needed. In order for it to work, a management body must be formed, which will be in charge of collecting the fee. In the event of non-payment, the City Council will be able to initiate a case and demand that it be paid. The creation of an APEU can be promoted by a commercial axis or the City Council.
“We are determined to promote them if we get the support of 50% of traders,” says Juan Carlos Arriaga, president of the association Born Shopping Center. This APEU would include commercial activity between Princesa and Marquès de l’Argentera streets, Via Laietana and Picasso. The same territory of the current association of traders that has 130 members – who pay a fee – of a total census of more than 260 businesses.
“It’s about adding non-commercial premises that are empty to revitalize secondary streets. As a result of the pandemic, there is a closure above 35% and we believe it is an opportunity to redefine the neighborhood socially and commercially. It is time to take advantage of the fact that there is no mass tourism and that there are very important projects that can modify the ecosystem, such as the reconversion of the Post Office building into a technological center ”, adds Arriaga.
One of the suspicions aroused by the figure of the APEU is that it replaces the Administration and the services offered by the City Council and the Generalitat. “They can do complementary activities, not impersonate,” says Muntsa Vilalta, director of Commerce of the Generalitat.
“For example, an APEU could have civic agents who would not replace the functions of the Guàrdia Urbana”, explains Pròsper Puig, president of the Sant Andreu traders’ association. This is another area, such as the Born, determined to promote the new instrument. For the APEU to work, he considers that it will be very important to define the projects looking for the complicity of the neighbors and the cultural centers, in addition to the commercial one.