The Deputy Minister for Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of the Basque Government, Miguel de los Toyos, and the Councillor for Housing and President of Bilbao Municipal Housing, Jon Bilbao, visited on Tuesday 29 June the Opengela project for urban regeneration and rehabilitation of buildings that is being carried out in the Otxarkoaga neighbourhood. The meeting was held at the Otxar Opengela, as well as in the buildings that are part of the initiative.
The Bilbao neighbourhood is one of the pilot projects, together with Eibar, where a neighbourhood office has been set up to accompany the neighbourhood throughout the process of refurbishing their buildings. Its managers support homeowners’ associations in the contracting of works, in the management of public aid, in access to financing, in the improvement of energy efficiency or accessibility. This model of neighbourhood offices has begun to be replicated in other Basque municipalities.
The Otxar Opengela is the place for meetings with the residents of three of the five blocks to coordinate the necessary actions to proceed with the refurbishment work. Specifically, these are the blocks at 18-24 Txotena Street, 1 Larrakoetxe Street and 12-16 Txotena Street. In the first two, the works are currently underway, while the one corresponding to Txotena 12-16 is in the tendering phase.
In order to offer assistance and advice to residents in these buildings, the Otxar Opengela staff have already been in contact with the neighbourhood and have made progress on the details for carrying out the work in four of the five blocks involved.
Specifically, so far this year, the local office has hosted seven neighbourhood meetings to advise on the decisions to be taken. The Otxar Opengela advisors also carry out individualised procedures with each owner for the execution of interior finishes, as well as resolving doubts and complaints. They also attend the telephone enquiries about the progress of the refurbishment work. Their functions also include guidance on financing and the processing of individualised public aid.
The office also has a space for research on urban regeneration in which public and private agents are getting involved. Several courses and workshops on urban regeneration have already been held in these multi-purpose rooms, as well as employability launchers. Specifically, two courses and three workshops have been given, as well as the coordination meetings of the neighbourhood offices of the Basque Country, which have chosen the Otxar Opengela to hold these sessions.
The Deputy Minister of Territorial Planning and Urban Agenda of th e Basque Government, Miguel de los Toyos, has highlighted the role of Opengela in the whole regeneration process. «It is a one-stop-shop that provides general support and guidance to residents, and helps them with both technical and administrative aspects». He also wanted to highlight the ambition of the Otxarkoaga project «because it is not limited to the renovation of public spaces and housing, but also proposes a comprehensive revitalisation of the neighbourhood, also taking into account economic aspects, employment and social cohesion».
There are numerous actions in the district related to urban regeneration and energy efficiency, with the involvement of the associative fabric. Within the framework of an initiative called Orain Otxar, the aim is to turn Otxarkoaga into a socially sustainable eco-neighbourhood. This is the first experience of its kind in the city, the result of institutional collaboration and the shared commitment to urban regeneration of the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government and Bilbao Municipal Housing.
According to the Councillor for Housing of Bilbao City Council and President of Municipal Housing, Jon Bilbao, «of the five blocks of buildings that are part of the project’s rehabilitation plan, two of them are being developed at full capacity, the remodelling of the F shopping centre building has also been completed to host socio-cultural activities in the near future and we are working on the design of the shared energy self-consumption association that will allow residents to use the surplus energy from the installation of solar panels».
The most relevant actions of the project are the refurbishment of five buildings under energy efficiency and universal accessibility criteria. In total, the intervention that is being proposed to the rest of the owners affects 240 homes spread over 16 house numbers and three streets in the neighbourhood (Irumineta, Txotena and Larrakoetxe). This work will be added to the one that has already been carried out until 2017 with improvement works in four buildings with a total of 228 homes in Bilbao.
This is complemented by another European project called PV Adapt, which aims to apply a new building-integrated photovoltaic solar energy system. It consists of the design and testing of new generation photovoltaic solar panels that will be installed in the Otxar Opengela office, in the F Shopping Centre and in one of the buildings to be refurbished. In addition to producing electricity, the panels are insulating and act as a finish for façades and roofs.