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The Warsaw Voice » Other » May 14, 2008
The Silesia Voice
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Pushing a New Image
May 14, 2008   
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The Silesian region in southern Poland is varied geographically and culturally. Similarly, its economic development has proceeded at a varied pace. Its former development as a strong industrial region was to the detriment of local tourism centers. Public perception of the region has changed, however, which has given Silesia the chance to redress the balance. But this would not have been possible without local people effectively implementing their ideas and promoting Silesia's natural beauty.

The Beskid Śląski, Beskid Żywiecki and Beskid Mały mountain ranges, together with the Wyżyna Śląska, Wyżyna Krakowsko-Częstochowska, Pogórze Śląskie and Pogórze Cieszyńskie upland areas, as well as the Kotlina Raciborska and Kotlina Oświęcimska lowlands, are unique areas of immense natural beauty.

It is no surprise that local development plans for the region include tourism to promote the natural splendor of the region. An example of local endeavor is an application for structural funds based on the Cieszyn County Council's long-term investment plan for 2005-2010 and general development plans. The Cieszyn county's strengths are its location alongside major European transportation routes, its areas of natural beauty and a rich and varied culture thanks to bordering the Czech Republic.

New businesses have been launched in Silesia in areas formerly dominated by heavy industry. Marklowice, a district within the densely populated Płaskowyż Rybnicki area near Wodzisław Śląski, will have a new leisure-sports complex. This Tropikalna Wyspa (Tropical Island) project is the result of a public-private partnership in which part of the funding, 75 percent in the first stage, will come from European Union coffers. The project's focus point is an indoor "tropical island." Other attractions include a sports swimming pool, indoor and outdoor pools, a viewing tower, shops and services and a bowling alley. Guests will have over 100 water attractions to choose from and will be able to relax around children's play areas and squares. The second phase foresees a fitness center, which will be heated using methane gas from local mines. This green energy will provide heat and power for the whole complex. Eventually the complex will also have a conference hall and hotel.

In line with Silesia's general development strategy, many districts are improving their transport infrastructure and local road networks. City centers are prioritized because without consistent efforts to improve the region's image there is no chance of attracting investors.

A case in point is Jaworzno, located almost mid-way between Katowice and Cracow. It is one of the most rapidly developing urban centers in Poland, and city planners are preparing to rebuild its center in a style befitting the 21st century, according to city officials. Most of the new development work will be on unused land located in the city center and close to the DK79 national road and the A4 freeway. Moreover, the site is also not far and equidistant from Cracow's Balice and Katowice's Pyrzowice airports.

Katowice has also been improving its image for many years. The designation of development land alongside the A4 freeway has resulted in much commercial activity. After the completion of a new road network and traffic circle, city planners want further investment to highlight Katowice's status as capital of the region. Katowice's best known landmark, the Spodek sports arena, will soon undergo complete renovation. City Hall says this is but the beginning of extensive remodeling of the whole city center.

Janina Peliszko
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