Shops with a history, Lisbon, Portugal
Shops with a history, Lisbon, Portugal - ©city of Lisbon

Shops with a history

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Main actors

City Government, other

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Project area

Inner City

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Ongoing since 2015/02

A municipal programme supporting shops whose historical and cultural heritage contribute to the city’s identity.

Throughout history, commerce has played a significant role in the birth and development of cities. The city of Lisbon developed the programme Loja com História, “Shops with a History”, to recognise commerce as a distinctive element of the city.

The Shops with a History label is awarded to shops including retail, services, restaurants and cafes that help 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. To achieve this, a municipal fund has been created to support the selected shops.

In July 2016, a multi-disciplinary team following predefined selection criteria, selected 63 shops to take part in the programme and in March 2017 a further 19 shops were selected.

Sustainable Development Goals

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

URBACT Good Practice Label

This project was awarded the 'URBACT Good Practice Label' in 2017.

Lisbon, Portugal

Size and population development
Lisbon’s municipal city limits contain an area measuring 39 square miles (100 square kilometres) and has a population of 545,000, its metropolitan area has approximately 2.8 million people. According to the most recent census, the rate of growth has decreased in recent years. Population density is higher within the municipal area with an average 14,100 residents per square mile (5,500 per square kilometer). Over the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, density diminishes to an average 8,200 people per square mile (3,200 per square kilometer).

Population composition
The largest group- people from Portugal- make up 90.70% of the city’s population. The largest minority groups in descending order are: Brazilians (2.75%), people from Cape Verde (0.82%) and Chinese (0.57%). Second and third generation migrants make up 9.30% of the city’s population. Lisbon has a dominant Roman Catholic base, it is estimated that anywhere from 60% to 70% of the population identify as Catholic.

Main functions
Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal and one of the oldest towns in Europe. It lies on the Atlantic Ocean and River Tagus and is dominated by hills and valleys. The city is the political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal, hosting the country’s seat of government, largest port and only international airport.

Main industries / business
The major industries in Lisbon include: technology, media, tourism and hospitality, automotive, shipping, textile, footwear and leather.

Sources for city budget
National government and municipal taxation.

Political structure
The Lisbon City Council (“Câmara Municipal de Lisboa” - CML) is the executive body in the Lisbon Municipality. Its mission is to define and implement policies and to promote the development of the municipality. The CML is composed of 17 locally elected officials (1 President and 16 council members), who represent the different elected political forces.

Administrative structure
Lisbon is comprised of 24 civil parishes, neighbourhoods/barrios are not defined by their geographic boundaries and therefore have no administrative units. With regards to politics, the Lisbon City Council (“Câmara Municipal de Lisboa” - CML) is the executive body in the Lisbon Municipality. Its mission is to define and implement policies and to promote the development of the municipality in several sectors. The CML is composed of 17 locally elected officials (1 President and 16 council members), who represent the different elected political forces.

In February 2015, the city council began talks with shopkeepers and representatives of trade and restaurant associations to address the commercial crisis situation that had arisen and to help businesses to stay operating in the city. From these meetings some basic ideas emerged culminating in the launch of the Shops with a history programme in February 2016.

The programme aims to support and promote traditional local commerce as a symbol of Lisbon, as well as providing a safeguard for the remaining retail stores with unique and differentiating characteristics of commercial activity, and whose history is intertwined with that of the city.

 The city council is committed to protecting historic shops by combating property speculation and the unrestrained increase of retail rents. The long-term viability for retail shops and restaurants is recognised by the municipality with the reduction or exemption of municipal urban taxes.

The candidate shops are visited and inspected by a multi-disciplinary working group set up for that purpose. This group consists of a mixed team from the municipality and the Faculty of Fine Arts that recommends the shop 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.

The working group proposes the distinction, which is validated by an 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. Finally, the decision is confirmed by the mayor or the deputy mayor. The selected shops are listed in a database with a documentary and photographic record that testifies to its current repository as well as the authenticity of its history. Each selected shop is awarded a plaque with the insignia “Loja com História” to be placed on the façade of its building.

The overall budget amounts 120K€ for 2016/2017.

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.

The additional prestige resulting from the Shop with a History/Loja com História distinction brings positive benefits for the shop’s activity. In some cases, having the distinction could even help a store avoid eviction, displacement or forced compensation.

The shops that are awarded a distinction benefit from greater public visibility, and this often provides a stimulus for updating their processes and methods to reach a larger market. This in turn has led to the creation of a municipal fund as an integral part of the same programme. This fund is intended to contribute to the costs carried out by stores in three areas: maintenance or restoration of façades, architectural and decorative elements and business dynamism or cultural initiatives.

The programme has been adopted by Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. Representatives of the Porto city council have held meetings with Lisbon officials in order to launch a similar initiative, called Porto with Tradition/Porto com Tradição.

The programme’s project manager has been invited to present a paper on the Lisbon programme at 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”.

This programme is easily transferable to other European cities, considering that the EU itself plans to improve trade and quality of life in cities, for example, through funding under Horizon 2020. 

Outside of Europe, the city of San Francisco has also already adopted a similar program that recognizes small businesses as cultural landmarks and contribute to support longstanding, culturally significant businesses.

URBACT case study: Shops with a history, a municipal programme highlighting shops whose historical and cultural heritage contribute to the city’s identity -

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