From Cardiff Docklands to Europe´s Most Ambitious and Exciting Waterfront Development: Social and Economic Restructuring in Cardiff´s Waterfront
English Language and Culture (ESHTE), English Studies (Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon) Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies (ESHTE) and PhD Student at the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon Portugal,
Cardiff´s waterfront, worldwide known as Cardiff Bay, in the capital city of Wales, in the UK, has been undergoing important economic and social changes. Intensive urban regeneration in the Bay has led to the development of new service-based economic activities, to a process of waterfront gentrification and to the appearance of new forms of entertainment and consumption that have been responding to the demands of a new social and economic class at the Bay.
Once a leading world port city in coal exportation and home to one of the most ethnically diverse communities, Cardiff´s docklands faced their decline through a process of deindustrialisation, especially after the Second World War, following the trend of many other European and American port cities. The abandonment of the docks and the consequent growth of unemployment have influenced the city government to outline the first regeneration strategies for the revitalisation of the city´s waterfront.
The first changes in the docklands took place in what used to be the centre of Butetown, Cardiff´s multiethnic neighbourhood, with the construction of high-tower apartment blocks, replacing the two-storey houses that existed in the area. Further regeneration projects were developed, especially after the creation of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation in 1987, which became responsible for the regeneration strategy implemented in the Bay and for the construction of one of Cardiff´s most polemic projects, the Cardiff Bay Barrage, that provided the docklands with a freshwater lake and a completely new waterfront landscape. Therefore, capitalising on the attractiveness of the water environment, new flagship buildings were projected and historical ones revitalised and devoted to leisure, culture, sports and consumption.
Impelled by these changes, a process of gentrification has been taking place in the Bay and new waterfront residential complexes have been emerging in the form of CCTV surveilled luxury apartments in gated communities. These new residential areas aim at attracting a new social and economic class that is characterised by its members´ economic activities, by their consumption patterns and by the cultural and outdoor recreational activities that they look for near the area where they work and reside.