The urban rent in the multicultural city: retail shops, migrants and urban decline in the historic centre of Palermo

[La rendita urbana nella città multiculturale: attività commerciali, migranti e declino urbano nel centro storico di Palermo]

Department of Architecture, University of Palermo  e-mail:

Department of Architecture, University of Palermo  e-mail:
Valori e Valutazioni 2020, 27, 67-76 ;


Changes in consumer shopping behavior and in retail spaces, such as shopping malls, department stores and e-commerce, have modified localization models of traditional retail shops, also affecting urban fabric and spatial distribution of urban rent. Even city centers have undergone significant transformations or even decline, especially if local economic system and real estate market are weak and recessionary. A significant amount of commercial properties may have long vacancy due to excess supply, since many traditional shops close their business because they are no longer competitive and, moreover, there is no immediate takeover by new tenants. The decline of central urban areas depends on the interaction of multiple economic, social and cultural factors, but it can be countered by urban policies oriented not only to physical redevelopment of urban fabric, but also to social cohesion and multiculturalism. Migrants bearers of varied cultural values, coming from different continents and settling permanently in the Italian cities, have rented some of these empty properties by locating retail shops specifically oriented to their own communities or also to the citizens needs. The presence of migrants contributes, indeed, to support the retail real estate demand, to mitigate the minus-valorization of real estate capital and also to contain the revenues contraction. This phenomenon has been analyzed in some streets of the historic centre of Palermo that are traditionally shopping areas and have become the privileged place for locating retail shops managed by immigrants.


rent, retail shops, migrants, multicultural city, real estate market, historic centre