Study Visit Aurora, USA, in Bergamo and Rimini, Italy

Categorized as News from NA

20 – 24 June 2022

The cities of Bergamo and Rimini, Italy, and Aurora, USA, undertook their second study visit as part of the IURC program. Two delegates from each city visited Bergamo and Rimini for a week to continue their work on the agreed thematic areas of cooperation:

  • Sustainable Urban Mobility
  • Nature-Based Solutions
  • Culture and Tourism

On Monday, June 20th, the study visit started in Bergamo with an official welcome from Ferruccio Rota, City Council President, who gave Rimini and Aurora the city’s flag.

The first field visit was to a Smart Bus Stop, which shows the time left for the bus to arrive and the available seats. This display empowers users to decide if they want to board the arriving bus or wait for a less crowded one. The bus stop also works as a smart kiosk, showing points of interest, bike-sharing stations, and info from the ATB and Bergamo.

The next stop was the Velostazione, an automated bike parking located outside the train station. The city has partnered with a private company to operate and maintain the parking station, increasing the number of users. The third stop was Bergamo’s Tram. The success of the tram in terms of mobility and the economic development it brought to the surrounding areas has resulted in a project for a new line on top of the old train tracks.

During the afternoon, visitors traveled to Daste, an urban regeneration project achieved through a public-private partnership. The 3000 sqm former power plant is now managed by a coalition of several organizations that run a cultural center, smart startup co-working space, a bar/ restaurant, a cinema, and a flexible space intended for cultural workshops, exhibitions, and events.

The subsequent visits took place at Bergamo’s Upper town, starting at the LORTO project. This orchard uses urban agriculture to give people with disabilities an opportunity to learn, play and enjoy nature.

The group continued to Palazzo Morroni, which, in partnership with Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), has resulted in the transformation of a private home (2009) into a museum (2020). The third stop was the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, owned by the City and managed and maintained by the MIA Foundation. The partnership ensures that the church is restored and preserved. The final stop was at the site of the Monastero del Carmine, a regeneration project supported by the city of Bergamo in partnership with Teatro Tascabile Bergamo. The building owned by the city was abandoned for 70 years and is now a thriving theater venue. These projects intend to make culture the starting point and to use its power to renovate historical buildings.

On the second day, the group learned about Chorus Life, an urban regeneration project led by the City of Bergamo to increase density and housing, connect the current tram with the new line, and develop a new sports arena while transforming the current one into a modern art museum. The business model is also innovative by bundling the rent with access to other services such as healthcare.

The economic development meetings were held at Kilometro Rosso, Bergamo’s innovation district, where delegates met with business entrepreneurs in building retrofits and the internet of things. Representatives from Aurora and Rimini also met with Bergamo’s Chamber of Commerce and Confindustria Bergamo to understand and evaluate possible areas of collaboration among cities.

The second half of the day consisted of a presentation of the project Cli.c Bergamo (Climate Change Bergamo), which has been recognized as a leading example of a plan to make a city in the EU more sustainable, and a visit to the Biodiversity Valley, a botanical collection that allows researchers to study and preserve varieties of plant species. Finally, the Monasterio de Astino, also located in the Astino Valley and property of the MIA Foundation, is an example of a partnership between a foundation and the region and province to transform a historic building into a multi-use center with an exhibition space, theater, and restaurant.

On June 22nd, the day started with a visit to the Donizetti Theatre to learn about its history, operations, and business model. The decrease in attendees has pushed the foundation to bring the theater to communities. In contrast, the Paramount Theater in Aurora continues to increase its membership. Therefore, the directors of the Donizetti Theater and the Paramount will connect to explore potential collaborations and exchange strategies for economic growth. The day ended with the delegates traveling to Rimini to start the second part of the study visit in Italy.

On the first day in Rimini, the group visited the Optimized Bathing Safeguard Plan (PSBO), which consists of a sewage reclamation project to solve the problem of discharges into the sea, thus providing an overall solution to the critical issue of bathing in contaminated water. With a total value of 154 million euros, the new plant in the redeveloped boardwalk is not only a building with a complex mechanical system, but it was designed to become an iconic public space and viewpoint. The partnership between Gruppo Hera and Romagna Acque has turned Rimini into the first coastal city in Italy to implement the Optimized Bathing Safeguard Plan and to design the plant as a public space.

Afterward, Maurizio Ermeti, President of Rimini’s Strategic Plan, gave the group an overview of the redevelopment plan for the boardwalk. He started by explaining the history of Rimini as a seaside tourist attraction and then explained the current design, plans, and engagement process with businesses along the beachfront. By eliminating parking spaces, adding bike paths, and greening, the already redeveloped area thrives and attracts new tourists and the local population.

Continuing along the beachfront, delegates were invited to the abandoned Dolphinarium, which had closed because of a combination of new environmental regulations and decreased sales, becoming an eyesore for the redevelopment of the area.

Through an agreement with Fondazione Cetacea, the city agreed to have the building redeveloped and turned into a sea turtle hospital and research center. The new center will be economically viable by charging visitors to see the turtles and an exhibition detailing the research findings and other fascinating marine life facts.

The visits were followed by meetings related to stormwater management and technical aspects of the PSBO. The day concluded with a visit to the redeveloped North Sea Park, which encompasses more than 6 km of requalified waterfront and pedestrianized areas with green infrastructure. The group biked to understand the cycling infrastructure and plans for the near future.

The last day of the study visit in Rimini began at the intermodal hub at Rimini Station, which connects the Metromare and Bike Park Rimini station. Both projects are part of an effort to pivot the mobility and transport system of Rimini and the surrounding area to make it sustainable, integrated, and able to connect the touristic seaside with the historic center. Metromare is the new trolley bus that connects Rimini to Riccione along the coast. The new electric public transport system uses the latest technology to be fast, reliable, and safe. The control center interested all delegates who appreciated the system’s technology and efficiency. The Bike Park Rimini project encourages the use of bicycles by locals and tourists. Placed strategically next to the train station, the hub offers guarded parking, bike rental, repairs, a store, a small bar so cyclists can wait for their train and even baggage storage.

The day continued with an official welcome by Francesco Bragagni, Deputy Mayor for Policies for the development of human resources, civic services, toponymy, and legality, who welcomed the visiting delegates and gave them the city’s flag. All cities expressed their satisfaction with the program and commitment to continue the cooperation beyond 2023.

The afternoon was divided into a walking tour of Rimini’s historical center, which for decades was ignored by the tourism industry. To revitalize the area and attract tourists year-round, Rimini has supported a series of restoration and preservation projects, including museums honoring the work of Federico Fellini, becoming an important international destination. The last meeting occurred at Gambalunga Civic Library, one of Italy’s oldest and most important public libraries. Representatives from Aurora and Bergamo met with Confindustria Romagna and the Chamber of Commerce of Romagna.