Lviv, 30 January 2023 (TDI): United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has declared the city of Ukraine, Lviv as a city of innovation that has been struggling with a lack of investment & infrastructure completely reviving itself with innovation & technology.

The city of Lviv is vivid in cultural context as it is deeply rooted and bound with the traditions of Western Ukraine. It is charming, with its picturesque buildings and European feeling, blending and reflecting diverse cultures.

According to Maksym Terletsky, a student who came to Lviv, the city was noisy and crowded with people. But when he returned to the city after ten years, he formed a new opinion about the city.

Lviv Urban Art

In 2000, this city lacked an industrial base. It struggled to develop its infrastructure, facing water shortages, power cuts, and limited mobility. Economic growth and development were hindered by a lack of investment.

While In 2004, there occurred a turning point when immigrants and expatriates returned to rebuild democratic Ukraine.

Lviv has people from diverse cultures; Polish and German and people from these backgrounds have supported the renovation of the city through various government-funded projects.

The city become hip, modern, and known for its vibrant life. The local craft business emerged with festivals. Similarly, people here crave innovation and assimilation.

However, the city attracted IT specialists from around the country in the last decade. That led to start-up hubs and the revitalization of abandoned areas.

It was also shortlisted for European Youth Capital in 2022. The achievements of the city are the outcome of moving mountains by local authorities and civic sector activists.

In urban planning, Lviv become an innovation and strategic frontrunner. The 2019-2027 Breakthrough Strategy is the result of the consistent creation of the city’s development and municipal team.

Seeking inspiration from iconic cities like Barcelona, Buenos Aires, and Berlin, Maksim and his team have been striving to develop Lviv as one of Europe’s most livable cities.

Lviv strived to be identified with notions of trust, respect, social cohesion, and cooperation, piggybacking on the experience. It adopted the best practices of Barcelona, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Helsinki, Tallinn, and Vilnius.

Maksym now holds the position of Acting Director with the City Institute, a strategic arm of the municipality. He is also behind Lviv’s innovations and planning scene.

In his career, he visited many cities abroad to explore and compare urban challenges between those cities and Lviv.

Mobility and Accessibility

Both aspects are key priorities for the Institute. The key goal is to develop the city on a human scale. That would make it a comfortable place to live and work.

Maksym’s team completed numerous projects by the end of 2021. That includes making city streets inclusive for everyone.

Also, they revitalized the Pidzamche district, a previously abandoned area that now serves as a playground for kids and a relaxation zone for residents.

Nevertheless, the Russian aggression on Ukraine disturbed the activities of the city of Lviv. Frequent air strikes and sirens destroyed the peace and calm of the city. Various shops, galleries, and cafes closed their facilities and moved to safer places.

Missile strikes smoke around the city of Lviv

Internally Displaced People

Currently, the city of Lviv is maintaining a fragile balance between a sense of insecurity and resilience. The city is a host of around 125,000 internally displaced people.

Also, the city is presently acting as a temporary landing place for those who flee or come back to the country because of its infrastructure, public services and transport, and proximity to the border.

The huge influx of people is a challenge to the city’s infrastructure, though Lviv’s public services remain available, even more, services emerged for the displaced.

Internally Displaced People have taken refuge in Lviv.

The process of innovation is not something that can be paused. Thus, the municipality keeps evolving and adapting, to the continuing changes. As before with the new vision and strategy.

Maksym explained, “With the war, city planning and strategies have changed, but thanks to the synergy within local authorities, the municipality was prepared to host internally displaced people and provide needed utilities and public services.”

The city opened a few temporary shelters in mid of 2022 and started working towards more durable solutions, for example, modular shelters.

The City Institute halted many regular projects and focused on the welfare of the displaced people. More than 70 percent of the work shifted to responding to the war-affected population.

“No matter when the war ends, we all will deal with its consequence for years,” admits Maksym. “We’re embracing uncertainty, and simultaneously believe that the city should be innovative and ready for experiments as never before”.

It is noteworthy that the City Institute is working to stay resilient in this time of crisis. Moreover, 30 percent of their work remains strategic planning and work on their regular projects.

Renewed Urban Imaginaries Participation

In September 2022, the team of the City Institute renewed their Urban Imaginaries Participation. They are embarking on a new journey by exploring human-centered design.

Most of the projects are back and the team is shifting to the strategy of small steps. The team is not taking on big projects but focusing on smaller activities.

At this critical point, the team is giving importance to the need of Lviv residents. As in “What they think, feel and believe,” said Maksym. Even during hard times, Lviv remained lively and energetic.

“We have big expectations as the city seeks to be more agile and responsive to its residents, especially during the war,” says Maksym. Once an innovative and resilient city would always be an innovative and resilient city.