University of Illinois at Chicago
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Bargaining space: deal-making strategies for large-scale renewal projects in Colombian cities

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posted on 2012-12-10, 00:00 authored by Catalina Ortiz Arciniegas
Large-scale urban projects have become the political currency for unlocking land values in prime real estate locations. For over a decade, and unlike most of the Latin American countries, Colombia has been implementing a new progressive spatial planning system. This system introduced the model of large-scale projects through public / private partnerships. Much of the research has been concerned with why the new planning system should be in place. However the question of the negotiation dynamics as necessary condition to address actors’ access to power in large-scale projects has been overlooked. This dissertation examines the negotiation of partial plans, the land management tool enabling large-scale projects, in the context of downtown renewal comparing two cases (i.e. community led and publicly led initiatives) in Colombian cities (i.e. Medellin and Pereira). I termed ‘critical spatial planning’ the lens for analyzing emerging spatial planning practices in Colombia and the frame to overcome gaps in negotiation theory. This literature largely fails to account for the impacts of (post) colonialism in the circuits of capital and planning ideas, the role of the materiality of space, and informality as pivotal features of spatial planning in the so-called Global South. The dissertation suggests shifting the focus of negotiation studies to off-the-table agent’ strategies and tactics for mobilizing interests, the historical trajectories of materiality of space, and the dialogic connections of transnational flows of planning ideas and capital. Based on in-depth interviews with key informants from local and national governments, the private sector, and community organizations. I argue that partial plans crystallize long-term planning initiatives in downtown fringe areas to unlock land values through the formalization of “informal” practices on public spaces. The findings suggest the main negotiation strategies and tactics were focused on positioning politically the project, setting the boundaries of formality/informality, the land speculation controls, and the urban design. The cases reveal how community coalitions and mayoral involvement (or their lack thereof) can inhibit (or facilitate) the protection of inhabitants and the provision of public amenities. Despite the socially progressive goals of this planning framework, the legal emphasis on landownership curtails the leverage of non-landowners. As a result, the implementation of partial plans of renewal was more efficient in allocating costs of the projects than in assuring citizens’ rights and government responsibilities.



Weber, Rachel N.


College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Theodore, Nik Parker, Brenda Betancur, John J. Vidyarthi, Sanjeev Irazábal, Clara

Submitted date



  • en

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