Getting to the heart of the matter

Katowice’s city center is will be completely revamped in the upcoming years

Katowice, capital of the Silesia voivodship, is soon expected to see one of Europe’s largest urban-space transformation and regeneration projects. Its authorities are working on a comprehensive revitalization scheme that is meant to reshape Katowice’s central areas as well as create new public space while also upgrading existing public space.
“The modern conception of a city dates back to the 19th-century concept of … a passerby and a city ‘user.’ Someone who strolls across public space, meets his friends and looks at display windows – in other words someone who enjoys city life. This kind of urban space has to be created in Katowice,” said Piotr Lorens, an architect and urban planner.

Vox populi

In October 2008, Lorens held a series of workshops devoted to the future of Katowice’s center, during which the city’s inhabitants were able to present their ideas on how to reshape some of the urban center’s most important, but currently neglected, streets and squares.

The workshops’ participants discussed the rearrangement of Katowice’s transportation system as well as possible locations for new residential and commercial investments, particularly on the western side of one of the main avenues in the city, Al. Korfantego. The result of their work is now being analyzed by urban planners and will be used in the process of drawing a local zoning plan for the Katowice city center.

“The city has obtained a considerable amount of information, ideas and opinions which will be used in the zoning work that will be carried out in the near future,” said Krzysztof Rogala, a city plenipotentiary for the center’s reconstruction.

“The workshops are an example of effective social participation. [Their] success has shown that similar initiatives will also be useful in the future,” he added.

New landmarks

Once the zoning plan has been prepared, the Katowice authorities will select developers who will be willing to deliver schemes that are in accordance with the city’s vision of the center. Construction on the first projects realized on city-owned land is expected to commence in 2010.

Even before that date, Katowice’s city center may see the start of construction on a number of new buildings located on non-public land. Last month, developer Hines Polska and Polish State Railways (PKP), announced an agreement to develop a class-A office complex, located in close proximity to Katowice’s iconic Spodek building, that is meant to become a future symbol of the city.

The project will be built on a PKP-owned plot and will involve construction of an office tower that will comprise some 41,000 sqm of leasable space as well as the extension of an existing PKP building and its adaptation to office needs. A preliminary architectural design of the scheme has been prepared by the world-renowned German-American architect Helmut Jahn. The companies hope to obtain a ruling on the conditions for the plot’s development at the beginning of 2009.

From Warsaw Business Journal