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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 2, 2009
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City for the People
December 2, 2009   
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The Warsaw-CEE Financial Hub conference focused on the prospects for the development of the real estate market in Central and Eastern Europe. At the conference, experts from the sector discussed issues including the redevelopment of post-industrial sites, an increasingly important trend in the European construction business.

The second half of the 20th century marked a decline in heavy industry worldwide, in particular in Europe. While economies continued to rely on industry, they increasingly eyed the rapidly developing service sector. Finally, an information society began to develop following the dawn of the era of the internet, which brought about a revolution in all areas of life. As a result of these processes, urban development has gained momentum. Cities are expanding to include suburban areas, which subsequently gain the status of full-fledged city districts. They need more space to meet the requirements of the growing number of new residents.

In this context, it becomes clear how important well prepared post-industrial site redevelopment projects are for cities if these want to develop further. If a city like Warsaw is to continue developing as a resident-friendly place, sooner or later these ideas will need to be applied.

The most remarkable redevelopment projects, such as those in Barcelona, the Borneo Sporenburg in Amsterdam, the HafenCity in Hamburg, and the Bicocca district in Milan, have breathed new life into areas that had long remained unused. These kinds of undertakings offer comprehensive urban planning ideas and opportunities to mark out new directions for the sustainable development of cities.

Brescia in northern Italy is an example of a city where hectares of post-industrial wasteland have been redeveloped; Italians have also found a way to enable heavy industry to coexist in harmony with large residential estates. Brescia's Alfa Acciai steelworks launched production in the mid-1950s. Today, the plant's annual output exceeds 2 million metric tons of steel products. Thanks to cooperation with the city and the local community, this giant industrial plant operates in symbiosis with the local housing estates without disturbing the life of their residents. This symbiosis has been made possible by special buffer zones, including acoustic barriers and greenery, strict waste emission and soil protection policies, and other environmental measures that do not restrict the development of Alfa Acciai.

A similar model of harmonious development could be at work in Warsaw. The Pirelli Pekao Real Estate company, together with architects at Autorska Pracownia Architektury Kuryłowicz & Associates studio, has prepared an urban planning proposal for the development of a site formerly occupied by the Huta Warszawa steelworks in Warsaw's Bielany district. This residential/services project is to be located on two plots of 94 hectares altogether. The land designated for construction lies right next to the Młociny metro station and includes an area near the Huta ArcelorMittal steelworks.

The project provides for building about 7,000 apartments and ensuring space for the development of infrastructure indispensable for this kind of estate to function properly. The Bielany project may well satisfy a considerable part of Warsaw's residential needs: it would provide housing for 20,000 over about 15 years.

The new residential estate in Bielany would set new standards in the layout of green areas and landscaping. The project earmarks 30 hectares of land, or one-third of the total area, for sports and recreation. The part of the residential estate near the former Huta Warszawa steelworks would be separated from the post-industrial site by means of a specially designed green buffer zone. An added value of the project is the proximity of vast green areas, including the Młociński forest, the Kampinoski National Park, the Warsaw Escarpment area, and the Vistula river bank.

Will Warsaw follow in the footsteps of other European metropolises and develop while adapting its post-industrial sites and giving them a new lease of life? Considering the pace of the city's development, its increasing number of residents and their growing needs, projects similar to that in Bicocca will be built here sooner or later. This also applies to other Polish cities, including the Gdańsk-Sopot-Gdynia Tricity on the Baltic coast, the western city of Poznań, and the central city of ŁódĽ. These projects will come about as a natural consequence of the development of modern conurbations. The only question is when the process gets under way.
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