Since the 1990s, Tehran has engaged in a process of “re-development” of the old neighborhoods in the central part of the city, both through individual renovation of the older buildings, encouraged by an intensification policy, as well as through the building of the new highways, parks, masques and cultural centers by the Tehran municipality to modernize the city. These spatial transformations have changed the socio-spatial structure of the city, caused out-migration, and modified the perceptions and practices of everyday life in the central city neighborhoods. Yet the city remains off the sociological debates on Iran. This panel seeks to place the city and its transformation within the contemporary debates over social and economic changes in Iran. Examining the processes of “re-development” (gentrification) of different neighborhoods, we will address the changing demographics, representing identities, real estate determinations, and urban discourses and imaginaries involved in transformation of the city.
“Beyond Navab Highway: urban modernism and creation of non-neighborhood” will examine the building of the Navab highway and residential complex as an example of a modernist approach as well as a neoliberal projectification of the city planning in Tehran during the 1990s.
“How Grand Bazaar Resists Gentrification?” examines how a popular neighborhood around the main center of commerce in Tehran has remained outside the heavy interventions in the urban fabric and resisted the development projects.
“The Story of the Construction of the New Mosque in the Palestine Neighborhood” will examine how Palestine Square, the central square of an old neighborhood of the same name, became part of Tehran’s Friday praying zone, chosen as a site for construction of a new mosque. The article examines different narratives about the neighborhood and its recent transformations.
“Plans for the Rehabilitation and Renewal of Robatkarim, a Neighborhood in the Southern Part of Tehran”looks at the ways in which a low-income neighborhood can be modernized without displacing its original population.
This article will focus on the construction of Navab highway as a case study of the changing economic ‘rationality’ of urban governance in Iran. In 1990s Navab Street, an old North-South street linking many neighborhoods in central Tehran, has become a major element of the new strategic plan of Tehran highway network. The project, the largest demolishing and relocation project since the ‘crusade of street building’ in 1920, was included in Tehran’s first comprehensive plan (1968) as the only main North-South motorway to provide fast access to and from the North and the center of the city. This was a mega scale project, and the financial resources needed for purchasing the land and construction were so high that the municipality did not dare to start the project before the 1979 Revolution and during the war following the Revolution.
In the postwar era, inspite of the financial difficulties, the Tehran municipality initiated the implementation of the project. To finance the costs of the Navab project, the City decided to develop the land needed for the construction of the highway into a new urban complex with high density residential and commercial units. About 3 thousand families were relocated by compulsory purchase orders, and more than 130 high rise buildings with nearly 6 thousands apartments were constructed in a 30 meter wide strip bordering the 5 kilometer highway.
But the impact of the project goes beyond its physical borders. Navab laid the foundations of a new economic rationality for urban projects, especially restoration and upgrading projects, which could be summed up as relying on commercial and real estate surplus to finance the non commercial projects. I will discuss the social impact of such ‘economic rationality’ for the citizens, especially those who live in inner city neighborhoods and face renovation and upgrading projects.