Monterrey has long had the image of the industrial powerhouse of Mexico. From the 1980’s there has been a tentative to build a more positive image, beyond smoke columns. First it was the Macroplaza (some 500 m of gardens connecting the main power centers and the classical museums, not unlike some US squares in a typology quite different from European Squares), and the the Parque Fundidora, an old steel mills site which has been turned into a park. Since the mid 1990s there has been a series of works to revive the canal de Santa Lucía, an ancient small river that has been turned in a navigable channel and linear corridor connecting both spaces; the Rio Santa Catarina, which is the main water course in the city, has been transformed in a linear park, but seems less well cared for . According to many sources, these possitive investment in public spaces have not been in parallel with much needed improvements in basic urban facilities in most of the urban tissue, as it has been the case in other cities also confronting a productive transportation (cities located in richer countries, no doubt).
Lille grew by a combination of industries, mainly the textiles ; Bilbao and Monterrey were clearly two steel cities, and Chattanooga, as Glenn Miller reminds in his song, grew by the rail. When industries got into trouble and pollution was deemed horrible (Bilbao and Chattanooga were not helped by scenic, but impractical hills for that matter), they became problem cities. What is interesting is to see how they avoided becoming a Detroit (whose story is still running…).
Old industrial cities in what we call usually the “western countries” are often an exemple of how hard it is to maintain an economic health on the long term, but also that this is achievable. Monterrey is still a reference in the Mexican industrial landscape. Chattanooga seems to be succeeding its transition to a more viable economic model. Lille tries to reinvent itself as a reference node in the European High Speed Train network, and Bilbao has in fact changed its image thanks to a museum that is, in fact, just the tip of the iceberg.