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Inauguration of Places + Spaces

Eurobuild CEE 22 February 2018
POLAND Can the Polish capital follow the example of Bilbao or cities across the ocean? Or maybe it should look for its own unique path? The first meeting was held in Warsaw as part of the Places + Spaces series initiated by the Polish branch of the Urban Land Institute.

The first meeting of Places + Spaces was devoted to the role of large projects in cities with a significant share of public spaces. The event gathered a group consisting of nearly one hundred professionals from the real estate industry, urban planning and architecture as well as representatives of local government authorities. At first Alfonso Martinez Cearra, the general director of the ‘Bilbao Metropoli-30’ association described the fascinating process of transforming Bilbao from a neglected port and industrial town into a vibrant metropolis that is attractive for tourists. The main axis of this change were several strategic initiatives: revitalization of riverside areas, improvement of public transport and the implementation of cultural projects – first of all the unique museum of contemporary art designed by Frank O. Gehry. “Everything we do when planning cities must make them better for living and safer. In the case of revitalization projects, public-private cooperation, a clearly delineated direction of change, rising above political divisions and a long-term vision are key elements,” said Alfonso Martinez Cearra. Participants were also very enthusiastic about the necessity to understand the needs of the youngest residents. “The world of innovation is ruled by children. Without understanding their needs, the success of large projects, which are supposed to become new symbols of a given city, is out of the question,” added Alfonso Martinez Cearra. The success of the largest city of the Basque Country is confirmed by the numbers: in 2017, the Guggenheim Museum alone visited over 1.3 mln people and the activities of this institution generated an inflow of over EUR 430 mln for the Basque Country.

The hero of the second part of the Places + Spaces meeting was Daniel Ringelstein, director of urban planning at the Skidmore Owings and Merrill Architects studio. In his presentation he showed further examples of large projects that transformed fragments of cities around the world: Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, the New York High Line and above all the Millennium Park in Chicago. The transformation of this place, historically fulfilling the role of a repository of goods and facilities for the railway, was one of the largest projects ever implemented in the centre of the Windy City.

“The success of the Millennium Park is the result of the consistent implementation of the vision of local decision-makers in cooperation with a dedicated foundation,” said Daniel Ringelstein. “Involvement of top-class architects, landscape planning specialists and art creators made it possible to create one of the most favourite places in Chicago. Multifunctionality, simplicity of the design but also the use of many surprising elements, are factors that make the Millennium Park a place which the inhabitants are proud of and tourists treat it as a compulsory touring point.

The importance of the Millennium Park opened in 2004 highlights the fact that its neighbourhood has become one of the most popular destinations for Chicago investors. In just six years, around 3,600 new apartments were developed around (an increase of 57 pct) as well as over 750 hotel beds (an increase of 11 pct). It is estimated that tourists who were attracted by the park spent around USD 1.4 bln in its area.

The next part of the meeting involved a debate led by Andrew Tuck, editor-founder of the ‘Monocle Magazine’. Referring to foreign examples, many topics related to the directions of Warsaw's development were raised. Marlena Happach, the architect of the city of Warsaw, underlined the increasingly better effects of dialogue between officials and investors. The Places + Spaces cycle takes place under the honorary patronage of the Mayor of the Capital City of Warsaw. The next meetings of the cycle will take place on the 17th of April , the 19th of June, the 18th of September and the 23rd of October.

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