Cali’s Mayor Puts Transit-Oriented Development on Center Stage
On June 20, 2016, the Mayor of Cali, Maurice Armitage, opened the “Forum on Transit-Oriented Development for a Sustainable Cali” by positioning the “Green Corridor” at the heart of Cali’s transformation into a sustainable city. The event, held at the local Chamber of Commerce, brought together more than 80 local, national and international urban development professionals who engaged in a lively debate with two panels of local decision-makers and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) experts.
AN EMBLEMATIC INVESTMENT FOR THE REGION
Cali, a city of 2.5 million in Southern Colombia, is facing urbanization challenges shared by many middle-sized cities in the region. As a consequence of population and private motor vehicle growth experienced since the 1930s, the city is facing traffic congestion, air pollution, vehicle fatalities and a lack of public space and road infrastructure. For example, the available public space per person is only about 2.45 square meters (26.4 square feet). Vehicle congestion and air pollution are responsible for approximately 2.5 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, making the transportation sector account for almost half of all GHG emissions in the city.
The Green Corridor (Corredor Verde) is the city’s flagship urban development project. A 17km stretch of old, defunct railway line (the “Ferrocarril de Occidente”), is the spine that traverses the city on a north-south axis and has shaped the city’s socioeconomic dynamics for decades. It is a reminder of the city’s prosperous industrial past and permanent socioeconomic demarcation between the wealthy west and the less-affluent east.
For many, the Green Corridor embodies an opportunity for iconic and strategic urban renewal for Cali and Colombia as a whole. Initial plans for a toll highway were abandoned in favor of mass transit and public spaces. This indicates a clear shift in the city’s approach to urban management. In many ways, the Green Corridor provides an emblematic example of how this middle-sized, Latin American city is seeking to transition from unmanaged urbanization to thoughtful, sustainable, transit-oriented development that is inclusive, dynamic and environmentally low-impact.
The process has strategic dimensions going right to the core of modern city management. Citizens’ needs for affordable mobility and housing must be met while balancing urban expansion into agricultural land with central district re-densification. The latter raises sensitive issues of urban informality. A central part of the corridor includes pockets of both residential encroachment and unlicensed commercial activities, while providing the source of livelihoods for some of Cali’s poorest population. Beyond internal dynamics, the city must also articulate a productive relationship with its neighboring towns and villages.
Addressing these strategic questions will help move the corridor from a good concept to a transformative urban investment – one that has unique potential to set a precedent for TOD in not only in the city, but also in Colombia and Latin America more broadly.
Finding a Business Model That Works
Given its transformative potential, a coalition of public and private stakeholders is emerging around the Green Corridor. Locally, coalitions are being built between the municipal regeneration agency (EMRU) and the local industry association and Chamber of Construction (respectively, Alianza por la Renovación Urbana de Cali and Camacol Valle). Nationally, Colombia’s development bank, FINDETER, is a key player through its specialized Centre for the Promotion of Transit-Oriented Development (CIUDAT). Internationally, high-profile players have indicated interest and already become involved – the joint Germany-UK NAMA facility, the French development agency (AFD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the German development bank KfW, Gold Standard Foundation and the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP), among others.
Step-by-step, the Green Corridor aims to operationalize the concept of transit-oriented development. A first phase is currently focusing on retrofitting a bicycle lane along a 5km east-center section. This section will also see the redevelopment of an old brewery into apartment buildings to help address the city’s housing shortage. Subsequent phases will focus on the creation of public spaces along the corridor and riverfront and the development of a light rail mass transit system to be completed by 2022.
To achieve this, urban leaders in public, private and civil society sectors are currently looking at the appropriate urban development tools through which they can develop a viable business model for the corridor. This will involve understanding the precise components of the investments, how to pay for them, mobilizing investment capital and drawing on the suite of legal, regulatory and commercial contracts available in Colombia today.
Capacity and Dialogue for Urban Transition
Mayor Armitage’s commitment to the Green Corridor is part of a broader policy of sustainable mobility, which is flanked by intentions to improve the local mass transit system and to promote the use of non-motorized transport options, notably bikes. The forum is part of a longer-lasting process of urban transformation that aims to put citizens first.
Besides public events, internal capacity building and dialogues within the public administration’s different municipal departments, national ministries and with the private sector are underway. WRI is offering its expertise on TOD to help Cali advance the formulation and implementation of the Green Corridor and potentially optimize land use for economic, social and environmental objectives. As the project develops over the coming months, there will be further structuring and operationalization of the TOD investment.
Financing Sustainable Cities is an initiative of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and C40 Cities, funded by the Citi Foundation, focused on helping cities develop business models that can accelerate the implementation of sustainable urban solutions.