SPIRE: a Smart Post-Industrial Regenerative Ecosystem for Baia Mare

What do you do if you have around 672 hectares of (historically) heavy metal polluted land, a limited budget, and an imperative to act? You start searching for solutions. Innovative, Nature-Based Solutions.


SPIRE is the newest proposal developed by URBASOFIA in collaboration with Pietro Verga, for the Municipality of Baia Mare. It’s been delivered on January 31st 2019, under the 4th call of the Urban Innovative Actions, a flagship European initiative which provides urban areas throughout Europe with resources to develop innovative solutions (not yet tested at EU level) to the main urban challenges, and see how these work in practice and respond to the complexity of real life. For this call, SPIRE is one of just two such proposals delivered by Romania, and the only one dealing with Nature Based Solutions and Sustainable Land Use.

Read more below:

The Danube Day 2018 in Bucharest

We are pleased to inform you that the International Danube Day was celebrated in Bucharest, on the 28th of June 2018, at the HQ of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through a Public Consultation regarding the establishing of main Romanian priorities, initiatives and events to be proposed by the civil society for the period of Romania’s EUSDR Presidency (October 2018-October 2019).

The debate was honored by Mr. Victor NEGRESCU, Minister of European Affairs. The moderation of the reunion was ensured by the Mr. Sever AVRAM, Danube Regional Commissioner / Executive President of EUROLINK-House of Europe / CLDR Romania Association. More details of the day are available in the official CLDR Press Release. 

In the morning debate on „the stage of Romania’s preparations for taking over the annual presidency of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region – the importance of dialogue between public authorities and civil society in Romania”, Dr. Pietro Elisei was a member of the panel, as EC Expert in Urban Innovation (appointed UIA Expert).

Ms. Sabina Leopa held a short presentation on successful European projects within the Danube Area, and introduced the ATTRACTIVE DANUBE Project and its interim results. The project was met with much interest from the invitees.


Transforming post-industrial zones to green hubs: new nature-based solutions project kicks off in Aachen

A new European-funded project “Productive Green Infrastructure for Post-industrial Urban Regeneration (proGIreg)” was launched in Aachen on 12th June 2018. The cities of Dortmund (Germany), Turin (Italy) and Zagreb (Croatia) will harness the productive potential of key post-industrial areas with the involvement of local NGOs, community groups and residents.

“We are planning to reconstruct a former meat processing plant to create a new centre in the Sesvete area,” said Matija Vuger, Head of Section for International and Regional Projects, City of Zagreb. “The nature-based interventions will include urban gardens, a new cycle path, a modern business innovation hub with green walls and green roofs, and aquaponics agriculture.”

Aquaponics is a combination of fish farming and soilless plant cultivation, where fish, plants and bacteria live together in a circular system, making farming possible in areas with hostile post-industrial soil. ProGIreg aims to design a lower tech, low cost aquaponics system that is accessible and suitable for community investment, community building and community operation.

Dortmund will use the renatured Deusenberg landfill site to produce solar power and provide sports areas and creating fruit-producing forests with the local residents of Huckarde. Ultimately, the aim is to turn the isolated Huckarde borough into a green space, thereby filling in the missing link between two river sites that have already been converted into nature parks. “We would like to use the existing strengths of this urban area,” said Stefan Thabe, Department of City Planning and Building Regulations, City of Dortmund. “We would like to connect the existing potential, and we would like to improve quality of life in the urban area.”

Turin will introduce nature-based solutions including aquaponics, cycle lanes, bee-friendly areas and green roofs and walls to the post-industrial ‘Mirafiori Sud’ area and to connect local groups already working on urban agriculture. Turin will experiment with the use of ‘new soil,’ produced by combining compost and special fungi with poor-quality, but uncontaminated soil, and will introduce carbon compensation and offset schemes for private companies and large public events. Elena Deambrogio, Head of Office for Smart Cities and EU Funds at Comune di Torino said, “This project is ambitious because we have to work on different sectoral policies, including urban regeneration, social and active inclusion, environment and green planning and economic development and support to innovation.”

The three cities will work with four further cities in Eastern and Southern Europe: Cascais (Portugal), Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Piraeus (Greece) and Zenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to research, share and scale up the nature-based solutions tested along with 25 other organisations including coordinator Rheinsch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. “We need to make politicians and decision-makers aware that nature-based solutions can be more than just for leisure activities, and that they are of crucial importance,” said Teresa Ribeiro, landscape architect at Cascais Ambiente.

“ProGIreg is the next step in bringing issues around green infrastructure, urban development and business innovation together,” said project coordinator Dr. Axel Timpe. “We are lucky to have an inspiring group of ambitious, committed and experienced cities on the proGIreg team, and together we will show the productive potential of green infrastructure for urban regeneration.”

A large launch event will be held in Dortmund on 25-26 September. For more information, follow the project at www.twitter.com/progireg.

ATTRACTIVE DANUBE: 4th SCOM in Sofia, Bulgaria

The fourth Steering Committee Meeting of the ATTRACTIVE DANUBE project was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, between 22-23 May 2018, and was hosted by the Bulgarian Economic Forum (BEF).

The meeting was a great opportunity to tie in the many activities which the project partners have implemented since the previous Freiburg, Germany meeting in November 2017, and to plan ahead the next Attractive Danube activities.

Attractive Danube Consortium in Sofia, Bulgaria

The two-day meeting focused on the Territorial Attractiveness Monitoring Platforms – TAMP (national and transnational), as well as aspects concerning the transversal project activities and the proceedings with developing an ambitious Handbook for Policy Planning on applying TAMP, currently in development under the coordination of Urbasofia.

The SCOM ended with a great Study Visit organized by BEF, which took place in the Sofia Business Park – a visit to the Sofia newly developing periphery, which managed to position itself as one of the fastest growing, most attractive business poles in the region.

URBASOFIA – Updated Privacy Policy

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Results of the ATTRACTIVE DANUBE 3rd National Workshop

We are pleased to share the results of the final Romanian National Workshop of the ATTRACTIVE DANUBE! The workshop was held on 27th March 2018, in Cluj-Napoca, within the old historic monument „Cluj Casino”, now the Center for Innovation and Civic Imagination.

The meeting was part of the DANUBE ATTRACTIVE process for identifying, at national level, the sets of indicators that can be used to monitor and assess attractiveness at different territorial levels. With the TAMP establishment process well underway, the third meeting was also organized regionally, in Cluj-Napoca (the second largest city in Romania), in order to bring the discussion closer to local problems, solutions and peculiarities, and regional programs in Romania, and to allow for another perspective on prioritization. Its main objectives were the following:

1) To establish the national and regional specifics in Romania and the Key Territorial Capital Components, including methods of quantification;
2) To find out the data needs of the group of actors involved in the territorial planning process;
3) To receive feedback on the long and short lists of indicators which have been compiled during and after the two previous meetings;
4) To present / demo the National Territorial Attractiveness Platform and discuss the possible uses, synergies and barriers/limitations of such a tool.

After an introduction from Mr. Ovidiu Câmpean, Director of Projects, Cluj-Napoca Municipality, a presentation by Mr. Zoltan Coraian, Director of the Metropolitan Association Cluj followed, on the topic of Capitalizing the territorial assets and attractiveness at the regional / metropolitan area of ​​Cluj-Napoca. 

On behalf of Urbasofia, Mrs. Sabina Leopa introduced the project and the TAMP: Territorial Attractiveness Monitoring Platform which has been set up through the project:

We had a total of 19 participants, among which Regional Authorities, County Councils, the Metropolitan Association Cluj, Cluj-Napoca Municipality, interest groups, academia, business and clusters. We are happy to share the fact that feedback was in general very good on the TAMP Platform, especially since it is an open platform and does not require registering. Economic attractiveness, cultural heritage and tourism were seen as key indicator domains to promote within the platform.

In closure, key stakeholders (Cluj Municipality, Cluj Metropolitan Area, Babes Bolyai University, Cluj County Council, the Region, and economy representatives invited) expressed their interest in keeping to be involved with the project and in participating to the Capacity Building sessions.

The meeting ended with a light dinner / aperitif and the receiving of participation diplomas.


Invitation: 3rd National Workshop in Cluj-Napoca


for participating in the 3rd National Workshop of

„ATTRACTIVE DANUBE – Improving Capacities for Enhancing Territorial Attractiveness of the Danube Region”


Against the backdrop of a demographic decline, not only in Romania but also in the whole of South-Eastern Europe, the policies for mitigating the socio-economic effects face difficulties in implementation. A concerted approach is needed to address the cause, not the effect of these downward trends: Why is it “better” elsewhere – or not attractive enough here? How do we define, quantify and strengthen territorial attractiveness at national level?

FEach territory has equity and a set of assets and territorial capital that can make it competitive compared to other destinations, investments, tourism. Through good governance, policies can create conditions for maximizing endogenous potential for development, thus enhancing the attractiveness of territories for its inhabitants, visitors and businesses. The transnational project “ATTRACTIVE DANUBE –  Improving Capacities for Enhancing Territorial Attractiveness of the Danube Region” deals with the capitalization of the specific elements of potential that make up this region of Europe.

As a key partner of this project, URBASOFIA proposes an open, active and constructive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers involved in the planning and development policy making and development process. This dialogue takes the form of 3 workshops (workshops) that run between June 2017 and March 2018, the first being organized on June 29, 2017 at the Romanian Urban Registry, Bucharest, and the second at the headquarters Of Brasov City Hall on 18 October 2017.

The objective of the last meeting is to agree on the set of key indicators for assessing and monitoring the territorial attractiveness of our country within the Danube Region. The resulting indicators will be introduced into a TAMP – Territorial Attractiveness Monitoring Platform, along with equivalent information from all other countries in the Danube region (Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia).

URBASOFIA invites you to participate in the third national workshop of the ATTRACTIVE DANUBE project, which will be held with the support of Cluj-Napoca City Hall, on March 27, 2018, starting at 17:00, at the Innovation Center and Civic Imagination (CIIC) Cluj-Napoca, in the Casino building in the Central Park.

In the hopes that the subject is of interest to you, we invite you to confirm your presence by Friday, March 23, 2018, to the e-mail address sabina.leopa@urbasofia.eu, or by phone (+40) 773 702 216.


Dr. Pietro ELISEI,


Christmas Editorial

Dear Urbasofiers,

As much as I would abstain from writing this editorial, I cannot escape my duty, as the end-of-year communication is up to me. Being the director of URBASOFIA is a source of great satisfactions, above all linked to the ability, to the great humanity and to the creativity of all the collaborators, external and internal.

There are also many satisfactions from our high-level partners, with great ambitions, with which we sketch grand and concrete development paths related to the themes of urban planning and territorial development, with great enthusiasm.

I would like to reserve the same words to our customers, cities, public administrations, political interest groups with whom we daily interlace dialogues and suggest solutions through our work as policy designers, strategic planners, but I cannot do that.

Even if I love to see the glass half full, this time I cannot be so happy with them. I cannot shut my eyes for not seeing the lack of professionalism within the public administration, the inability to structure professional work groups, the incapacity of managers to give one single winning idea, the paucity of politicians who are not able to propose and believe in medium or long term development or providing a vision, showing a possible way to go.

In Romania we grow, but we do not develop. We follow the models, but we do not contextualize them to our problems, we do not exploit them to improve our way of being and living: we are not smart!

We fail to develop a complex system for territorial governance , we are not capable to delegate and allocate the right skills in their suitable places, and slowly we go back, because, after all, to live in a system that satisfies everyone, nobody takes risks and responsibilities and we get used to cohabit with “low competitiveness” development models, an usual quality of life, or rather mediocre, following resigned the philosophy of: merge și așa!

The coming year will be better, as Lucio Dalla sang: il nuovo anno porterà una trasformazione e tutti quanti stiamo già aspettando.

Hopefully, it is a true transformation, that helps us to live the opportunities of contemporary life, completely, and that does not bring us back to modern utopias having a stale taste, and that do not have the real salt of life: The courage, the hope!

The hope of continuing to design, experiment and risk in 2018 for the new, for the unprecedented.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the Urbasofiers!

Pietro Elisei
URBASOFIA director
December 2017

URBASOFIA Director Dr. Pietro Elisei, recipient of the Cup of Integrity, Good Governance and Social Responsibility

URBASOFIA is proud to report that our Director, Dr. Pietro Elisei, received the „Cup of Integrity, Good Governance and Social Responsibility”, which rewarded his entire activities to date as an urban planner, scientist and manager of major complex projects, including those in favor of capitalizing on cultural and historical heritage and supporting urban innovation in Romania.

Within a remarkable event held at the Cotroceni National Museum on the 8th of December 2017, which marked the 20th Anniversary of EUROLINK – House of Europe, the ceremony was precluded by a debate on “The relationship between good governance and Smart City in terms of transposing the EU Strategy for the Danube Region”. The debate has raised real, pressing problems for Romania, but also solutions to the challenge of responsible and intelligent governance of our cities.

The awarding ceremony took place in the presence of prestigious personalities from the country and abroad, the diplomatic corps and the accredited mass media, and was organized by EUROLINK – House of Europe in partnership with the kind support of the Cotroceni National Museum. The other winners of the Gala have been: Elena-Simina TĂNĂSESCU – The Presidency of Romania; Liviu Sebastian JICMAN – Cotroceni National Museum / former Vice-President of ICR; Sorana BACIU – former Secretary of State – Ministry of Economy; Marilen PIRTEA – Rector of the West University of Timisoara; Claudiu VRÎNCEANU – Romanian Business Leaders; Peter LANGER – Chief Commissioner of the Danube Region – CoDCR; Vlad ALEXANDRESCU – former Ambassador / University Professor; Dumitru BORŢUN – University professor; Cristian UNTEANU – Press Correspondent; Sinteza Magazine; Agerpres.

We wish EUROLINK – House of Europe at least as many future years of accomplishments, and congratulate them on the great representation work carried out in support of our country within the EUSDR, on the efforts of supporting Romania’s accession to the OECD and the country’s commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals.