Productive and Residential Revival in European Small and Medium-Sized Cities

As highlighted by Florida et al. (2020), the Covid-19 pandemic could change urban geography and its economic patterns in North American and Western Europe, both regions where metropolization process contributed, in part, to weakening the economic activity of these territories. Two drivers, both residential (based on local consumption) and productive, lead us to believe that changes could lead, in particular, to an economic revival of European small and medium-sized cities – the research object of this special session.

One driver of change is certainly the pandemic-induced rise in teleworking possibilities (Green, Riley, 2021). It has already resulted in a more flexible geography of work and could lead to a substantial residential renew of the small and medium-sized cities. Indeed, promoted by households for environmental amenities, quietness and safety, lower housing prices (e.g. in France: Desjardins, Estèbe, 2019), we observe an home sales increase and new migration to these “zoom towns” (Sodja, 2021). Another driver of change is undoubtably the political (but also collective and individual) awareness about a loss of economic sovereignty (depending on the outside for masks, respirators, building materials, etc.). It argues for a reindustrialization in European countries already hoped as answers to ecological transition issues. After being severely affected by deindustrialization (Connolly, 2010), small and medium-sized cities seem now to have several advantages to be places of an industrial revival - such as land availability, industrial culture (Bole, 2021), social innovation and cooperation capacities (Kozina et al., 2019 ; Gros-Balthazard, Talandier, 2019) - but also because some of them remain productive and innovative areas (Hamdouch et al., 2017 ; Mayer 2011).

These residential and productive drivers which reflect the two main components of territorial development could furthermore interact to promote new development paths of small and mediumsized cities in Europe: residential attractiveness as a lever for productive renewals and vice-versa.

Connected to these observations, we propose to cross-reference four questions in this special session:

While the Covid-19 pandemic may have accelerated certain trends, this revival may have been underway for several years. Communications can therefore also cover processes that were underway before the pandemic.