Policy-makers and urban planners struggle to find the right formula to implement urban regeneration processes based on cultural assets, often focusing on the desired outcomes, but rarely questioning how the policy process can shape them. This paper examines different governance models for the implementation and organization of cultural districts, and evaluates how they can affect their actual realization by investigating three cases in Copenhagen, Denmark. The deindustrialization of Copenhagen left many of the city’s harbour areas disused and in turn provided the opportunity to develop three new cultural districts in the city centre. The paper contributes to the literature on cultural districts by matching specificities and contingencies attached to a particular urban area with the governance model adopted for its development. The paper claims that temporal experimentation has to be included in cultural planning and a mix of bottom-up and top-down approaches is more desirable than both a totally unregulated initiative and a real estate-driven development and a totally unregulated initiative, as it ensures that initiatives remain financially viable and that the creative workers and companies retain a certain control of the area development, and in turn counteracts gentrification.
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