Plan for years
New islands, a pedestrian precinct in Solna Street, Chwaliszewo linked to the city with four bridges, under which the Warta flows as it used to in the past. New leisure areas on the Cybina and Bogdanka rivers. This is what Poznań may look like in 2030. And we can make pretty good money on implementation of this idea.
For me it is the summing up of all discussions on the Warta river in Poznań which have been held in recent years. This study organizes our knowledge and determines specific ways of accomplishing a goal which is to return the river to the city, says Mirosław Kruszyński, the deputy mayor of Poznań.
He has just received Strategy for the Development of the Warta River, prepared by experts from Dutch consulting companies KupiersCompagnons and DHV in cooperation with the City of Poznań. The document was drawn up as part of “the Partnership for the Warta River” while money for its implementation came from the grant awarded by the Dutch government programme “Partners for Water” and also from the resources of Dutch companies and SwedeCenter. The initiative started last year. Its partners are the City of Poznań, KupiersCompagnons, DHV and SwedeCenter which is constructing the Portowo housing estate in Starołęka. Following a year of work, the Dutch experts are presenting the potential which is hidden in the Warta river.
- “We made use of the Dutch examples of such towns as Breda, Rheden or Nijmegen. In the nineties all of them became aware that they had to return to their rivers because they had had forgotten about them a little.
An impulse which came from the revitalization of the rivers in those cities was inspiring for us”, says Edyta Wiśniewska from KupiersCompagnons. Although she permanently lives in the Netherlands, she spent several months last year mainly in Poznań. “We started with expert interviews, then during several rounds of social consultations we asked the city residents what river they would like to see in the city centre. Each subsequent meeting was attended by more and more people, I especially remember a discussion with the members of the Stare Miasto Housing Estate Council whose comments were extremely fresh and valuable for us”, remembers Ms Wiśniewska.
The Dutch experts worked on all functions of rivers in Poznań: “Yes, we use the plural number since after all, besides the Warta river, in Poznań there are still the Cybina and Bogdanka. They have also been taken into account in our study”, stresses Ms Wiśniewska.
The urban planners from the Netherlands examined flood safety in Poznań, the city transport system, tourist attractions and green areas. They even examined the role which the rivers play in creating the local identity of Poznań residents. That is why the Strategy proposes solutions for Poznań combining five basic elements.
- “The environment, that is, how the city should coexist with the river so as not to be harmed by it,” explains Ms Wiśniewska. “The economy, that is, how to make profits out of such symbiosis. The society, or what role the river plays in life of the city residents. The transport connections, which is the transport role of the river and areas along it. And finally, the identity as we wanted Poznań residents to again speak of themselves that they are from the Warta river”.
Concrete evidence on the paper
From the research conducted by the experts a vision of Poznań of the future emerges, that is, the city which in 2030, thanks to the Strategy, is supposed to look completely different.
- “For me the thing which is the most captivating here is the complexity, taking into account all the factors which determine the life in the city”, says Rafał Przybył, who in the Partnership for the Warta River represents SwedeCenter.
“From the investor’s point of view, it is the most attractive to have new investment areas discovered in the very centre of the city. It was said that Poznań started to lack such areas. The Dutch conjured up several new islands in the city centre for us. In the strategy they are called “Wyspa Północna” (“the Northern Island”). Indeed, the Strategy for the Development of the Warta River foresees several revolutionary solutions. On almost all maps included in the strategy you can easily notice a green cross created along the Warta, Cybina and Bogdanka rivers. Along these rivers leisure areas have been organized, taking into account initiatives started as early as last year such as, for example, the Wartostrada project. For centuries rivers have been natural channels of fresh air for cities and towns and this is what they will be in Poznań. The strategy also anticipates remodeling the transport system of the city, that is, completing the 1st Communications Frame (I Rama Komunikacyjna) and moving busy traffic out of the city centre. Can we imagine Solna Street as a pedestrian precinct? The Dutch were able and not afraid to include this idea in their plans. Speaking of the city centre in 2030, at least the one described in the Strategy, we must notice that we have in mind an area a little different from the today’s one. The heart of Poznań will, of course, continue to be the Old Market and its direct neighbourhood but they will be much more strongly linked to the river. Thanks to much bigger importance of the Poznań Imperial and Royal Route (Trakt Cesarsko-Królewski), also the role of the areas located a little further from the centre will also grow, that is, the surroundings of dying Święty Marcin Street on one hand and the Śródka area on the other.”
In order to examine certain solutions and ideas, the Strategy’s authors suggest carrying out three pilot projects. They alone may significantly change the face of our city.
- “Our proposal is to dig up the old channel of the Warta river. With two channels, the flood safety of the city will be improved”, explains Edyta Wiśniewska. “What is more, such an action will make the revitalization of Chwaliszewo, now the forgotten and squalid area of Poznań, more effective. We want this place to again become part of the city centre.”
This is, however, not the end of the revolution since Chwaliszewo, as a new Poznań island, will have a younger sister, the so called Wyspa Północna (Northern Island). This is the area located north of Ostrów Tumski. The Dutch experts discovered many hectares of land there which are not used today. Northern Island is due to be a new Poznań district, which is going to be green, not intensely developed with residential buildings, with retail and service facilities and a great number of leisure areas. This place will also have a magical power of being divided into smaller islands.
- “With low levels of the Warta river, there will be one island which will not much differ in its outline from what we can see on today’s map of the city,” explains Rafał Przybysz. “With higher levels of the river, the water will divide the island into smaller ones, flooding into proper canals which on every day basis will function as green areas. In this way a small archipelago will be created. As the first ones in Poznań we will apply this solution in our Portowo housing estate. The marina which is to be built there will be entered from two directions only when the water level is high.”
It is exactly Portowo, constructed by SwedeCenter, which is the third pilot project included in the Strategy. We will be able to admire this project as the first one since as early as this year SwedeCenter wants to obtain from the City Council a planning permission for the area surrounding the old harbour in Starołęka.
Can we afford to do it?
The Strategy does not only mean spectacular projects of urban planners and architects but also a detailed list of over sixty programmes and activities which Poznań should implement in the years 2013-2030 in order to make this brave vision come true.
- “At first, we would like to win potential partners for implementing individual pilot projects”, explains Mirosław Kruszyński. “On a regular basis we monitor potential sources of financing and analyse forms of carrying out specific actions”.
Of course, one of the most topical issues regarding the Strategy now refers to money. And at this point its authors do not leave us without a solution. The investment and operational costs of implementing the most enterprising vision included in the Strategy are estimated at about PLN 3.51 billion. This amount includes not only the costs of all minor programmes but also large projects such as the remodeling of Chwaliszewo (PLN 428 million) or the construction of Northern Island (PLN 421 million). The economic benefits which the city may gain following the systematic implementation of the strategy during the next 17 years are estimated at 7.6 billion.
- “The whole Strategy is feasible from the economic point of view”, says Edyta Wiśniewska, “and this means that while implementing the Strategy it is possible to apply for funds from the European Union. And those in turn may considerably reduce the effort put in by the city authorities.” Mirosław Kuszyński notices that solutions included in the Strategy are of long-term nature and their implementation may take from several to a few dozen years. “Looking at it from that perspective, current financial limitations of the city are not the most important.” And he adds: “Sources of financing the projects may be also found in private investment projects. In that case, the role of the local authorities is to create proper conditions for such investments. And this is what we are going to focus our efforts on.”