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How Sustainable is Kayseri, Turkey’s Rapid Urban Develop...

How Sustainable is Kayseri, Turkey’s Rapid Urban Development?

In an era of city competition and globalization, cities around the world are competing with one another to “go global.” Cities are significant production points of specialized financial and manufacturing services that make the globalized economy run, as pointed out by Saskia Sassen in her book, “The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo.” This is radically

by Najma Leley December 12, 2017
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In an era of city competition and globalization, cities around the world are competing with one another to "go global." Cities are significant production points of specialized financial and manufacturing services that make the globalized economy run, as pointed out by Saskia Sassen in her book, "The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo."

This is radically changing the geography of property and has deep implications for real estate formats, assets, and opportunities. Starting in the 1950s, Kayseri began experiencing an urban transformation acceleration. It has witnessed a massive expansion of its residential real estate sector; especially through the construction of apartments, according to Özge Korkmaz. And has also undergone various degrees of urban change. The common urban transformation projects seen in Kayseri are urban renewal and redevelopment projects.

Particularly since 2010, with increasing economic growth in the city, the renewal of frayed urban fabrics, earthquake-prone areas, and squatter areas were among the fundamental interests of the local and central governments. The local Kayseri government has been concerned about the economic potential of some of these areas and how they could boost the city’s economy.

Old worn out houses and frayed urban fabric, a residential area in Yunus Emre Mahallesi, Kayseri, Turkey.

As urbanization is taking over and cities grow rapidly it is critical to question whether the rapid urban developments and transformations taking place are going to be sustainable. With the growing economy, not everyone takes into account the negatives that unbalanced economic growth can have on the environment and people’s well-being.

You’ve probably heard the term sustainability in some context or another. It has been a huge concern to most professions. You may be aware of some campus or civic organizations that focus on sustainability or may have used a product or a service before that was labeled sustainable. Sustainable planning and development have been encouraged by planners to promote interconnected green space, multi-modal transportation systems, and mixed-use development.

Half of humanity—3.5 billion people—live in cities today, and according to the United Nations, this number will continue to grow. Building sustainable cities matters because the majority of people will live in urban environments, and sustainability will be the solution to some of the greatest issues facing poverty, climate change, healthcare, and education.

The city of Kayseri has experienced several urban transformations in a short period of time, but it’s unknown as to whether the transformations and developments will be sustainable. And how the city can achieve sustainability.

Residential area with high-rise apartments in Talas, Kayseri, Turkey

According to United Nations, sustainable development is said to be developments that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Some of the sustainable urban development goals pointed out by the United Nations Development Program are:

  • Ensuring access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrading slums.
  • Providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems.
  • Enhancing inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management.
  • Strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
  • Significantly reducing the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to a global gross domestic product caused by disasters.

Additionally,

  • Reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities.
  • Providing universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces.
  • Supporting positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning.

Locations in Kayseri city where urban renewal and redevelopment projects are going to take place. Kayseri, Turkey.

Since 2013, Kayseri has declared eleven urban renewal areas. Within Kayseri town, Kocasinan and Melikgazi regions were the areas of early settlements and development. It is reported to have worn out urban fabrics, earthquake-prone areas, and slums. As a result, the local government in these municipalities have decided to declare these areas suitable for urban renewal. In the city of Kayseri, urban renewal and transformation are rapid. Within Kocasinan region, eight areas: Ahievran, Cirgalan, Sahabiye, Seyrani, Uğurevler, Yunus Emre, Yildizevler and Ziya Gökalp are declared to undergo urban renewal in order to develop more livable and modern communities. While in Melikgazi Municipality, five areas: Anbar, Karacaoğlu, Küçük Ali, Kazim Karabekir and Yeni.

The urban renewal projects, which are initiated by the local government of Kayseri, consist of high-rise residential and commercial areas. This is in order to maximize profit and attract investments to the area. Which means the number of apartments, and the height of the buildings, become critical to the profit margins. It is an economic means to replace older houses that lacked modern amenities. Therefore, the city has been growing both horizontally and vertically. But what about the damage to the urban landscape? Is this considered environmentally sustainable? Or is it merely economically beneficial to the city and its developers?

Many developers in Kayseri, and in Turkey, in general, see high-rise buildings or apartments as a way to maximize profit, while many city planners see it as a way to address the fast- increasing need for a more sustainable concentration of infrastructure and energy offered by cities in response to a growing population and urbanization. This is without considering the damage it will bring to the city fabric. With the aid of government-initiated mass housing developments and building cooperatives, the possibility of apartment construction with little capital has increased individual apartment ownership. Thus, increasing the construction of high-rise buildings and apartments in Kayseri.

Do you think that building sustainable cities will help us solve environmental problems in our cities? If so, how? Does your city have a sustainability plan? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.

Credits: Images by Najma Leley and Google Maps. Data linked to sources.

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Originally from Kenya and in my final year as an undergraduate student at Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey. I moved to Turkey in 2013 to pursue studies in urban and regional planning.

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