Podcast: Lessons and Challenges of Implementing Thessaloniki’s Resilience Strategy

The City of Thessaloniki launched “Thessaloniki 2030”, the first city resilience strategy in Greece, in March 2017. As the strategy enters its third year of implementation, and with local elections coming up at the end of May, city leaders and others involved in the strategy development process discuss the first years of the implementation journey and what comes next.

Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and today it is, in many ways, a city in transition. The city sits on Thermaikos Gulf, with a port that is significant in the region of Southeast Europe and was recently privatized. A waterfront promenade with three kilometers of parks and playgrounds is the city’s most popular public space, and creating more open and green spaces in throughout the dense urban environment is a pressing issue. Mobility is a timely issue, as a long delayed metro system is nearing completion, and residents push for cleaner and more accessible transportation methods.

In its 2300 years of history, the city has been part of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. It has a strong Jewish history and experienced significant population shifts in the last century. The city’s cultural and creative sector and its growing tourism draw from this multicultural history.

The city has been affected by declining industry over the past decades and Greece’s economic recession of the last years, but it has a large academic, research and knowledge community, and its student population is the largest in the Balkans. As Greece has a highly centralized governance system, the city is seeking more financing and cross-sector partnership models to bring more resources to climate adaptation, sustainability and resilience projects.

In this podcast, Mayor of Thessaloniki Yannis Boutaris addresses how a city builds on its past as it looks toward its future. Deputy Mayor for Urban Resilience and CRO, Giorgos Dimarelos, discusses the challenges in building awareness around urban resilience, aligning a long-term strategy with shorter-term operational plans and financing, and ensuring the continuity of the strategy implementation beyond local or national elections.

We also check in with members of the municipality’s resilience office, and people in the Resilient Thessaloniki community. They tell us about some key projects and initiatives that are part of the resilience strategy, including the Safe Routes to Schools and Risk Data Portal, encouraging investment for resilient waterfront development, and delivering local and national impact for integration of migrants and refugees.

Speaking in this podcast:

  • Yannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki
  • Giorgos Dimarelos, Deputy Mayor for Urban Resilience and Development Programs & Chief Resilient Officer – Resilient Thessaloniki
  • Maria Sitzoglou, Architect and Urban Designer, Consultant of Urban Resilience responsible for Participatory Planning and Community Engagement – Resilient Thessaloniki
  • Thalia Rizou, Youthnest
  • Epaminondas Christofilopoulos, UNESCO Chair on Futures Research, in the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas
  • Christina Amoiradaki, Deloitte Greece
  • Meric Ozgunes, Arrival Cities and Municipality of Thessaloniki Urban Response Team
  • Nikolaos Mavridis, Interactive Robots and Media Lab

Podcast Credits:

  • Host: Aphrodite Bouikidis
  • Production: Argyro Barata
  • Recordings: George Manos
  • Montage: Anastasia Tsita
  • Closing Music theme: “Towards the Setting Sun”, album Solfar, Manos Mylonakis