Shops with a history
Throughout history, trade has played a significant role in the birth and development of cities. The city of Lisbon (PT) developed the programme Loja com História, “Shops with a History”, to recognise trade as a distinctive element of the city. The Shops with a History label is awarded to places such as shops, restaurants and cafes that have helped foster the city's identity and play a role in preserving its historical and cultural heritage. The municipality's goal is also to promote local shops, mainly in the historic town centre, as part of Lisbon's rehabilitation strategy for revitalising the city's economic and social fabric. Thanks to a multi-disciplinary team following predefined selection criteria, a first selection of 63 shops, including restaurants and patisseries, were distinguished in July 2016. A further 19 were highlighted in March 2017. A municipal fund has also been created to support the selected stores.
The candidate stores are visited and inspected by a multi-disciplinary working group set up for that purpose. This group consists of a mixed team of the municipality and the Faculty of Fine Arts that recommends the shop (or restaurant) which meets most of the criteria to be awarded with the distinction. The distinction is awarded on the basis of the cumulative assessment of various factors such as commercial activity, as well as the existence and preservation of architectural heritage or cultural and historical materials. Afterwards, the working group proposes the distinction, which will be validated by an advisory board and finally confirmed by the mayor or the deputy mayor concerned. The distinguished stores will be listed in a database with the documentary and photographic record that testifies to its current repository as well as the authenticity of its history. Each distinguished store is awarded a plaque with the insignia (Loja com História) to be placed on the façade of its building.
With the distinction awarded by the municipality, the stores benefit from greater public visibility, being a stimulus for updating their processes and methods to reach the market. This justifies the creation of a municipal fund as an integral part of the same program. This fund is intended to contribute to the costs carried out by stores in three areas: maintenance or restoration of façades or architectural and decorative elements, business dynamism or cultural initiatives.
The Shops with a History programme aims to support and promote the traditional local trade as a symbol of Lisbon, as well as to safeguard the remaining retail stores with unique and differentiating characteristics of commercial activity, and whose history is intertwined with that of the city. The concern with the retail shops (and restaurants) is recognised by the municipality with the reduction or exemption of municipal urban taxes. The City Council is committed to protecting historic shops by combating property speculation and the unrestrained increase of retail rents.
Civic participation has been encouraged by the initial meetings. Starting in February 2015, the City Council began talks with shopkeepers and representative trade and restaurant associations to reverse the commercial crisis situation and maintain business and lifestyle in the city. From these meetings some basic ideas emerged, with the formal start to happen with the probation of the criteria in February 2016 and constitution of a working group to realise the project in May 2016.
Furthermore, both the distinction and the fund were subject to their own regulations and submitted to a public consultation, before being ratified by the Municipal Assembly, the deliberative body of the city. All the distinctions were submitted for approval by the Advisory Board. This board is constituted by individual retailers and representative associations of trade and catering, as well as personalities with strong links to the history or the commercial life of the city.
The act of distinguishing a store is prestigious for commerce, but also for the city and for the owner of the store, which is not usually the shopkeeper. In some cases, having the Shop with a History/Loja com História distinction could help a store avoid eviction, displacement or forced compensation.
At the national level, the programme has already had repercussions in the country’s second largest city, Porto. Porto has held meetings with Lisbon officials in order to launch a similar initiative, called Porto with Tradition/Porto com Tradição.
Furthermore, our project manager is invited to a regional meeting to be held in Algarve, next April, organised by DG Cutura of Algarve/Ministry of Culture under the theme “Shops with a History/Encontro Lojas com História”. It will be an opportunity to present the Lisbon experience. This programme is easily transferable to other European cities, considering that the EU itself intends to improve trade and quality of life in cities, for example through funding under Horizon 2020.
For instance, a well-known blogger from Antwerp has already shown interest in publicising these ideas in her city. A meeting was scheduled with the Vice President's office.