Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Little Fight In Frankfurt

This is a story over urban planning, lack of housing, high-rise living, and neighborhood warfare.

When you drive into Frankfurt (a stone's throw from my house) tend to see a city that is flat around the entire outer seventy percent of the city.  High-rise office buildings, hotels and condo buildings exist at the city center and have been readily accepted for the past forty years.  If you look at the dynamics of the city center.....there's at least twenty-odd skyscrapers planned for the decade ahead for Frankfurt.  All of that, in the city center....was acceptable.

Well....a new urban planning effort is underway on the northwest side of Frankfurt.....pretty far out from the city center.  The drafted plan?  A fourteen-story high-rise situation....approximately eight kilometers from the center of town.  There is the suggestion that others would follow, if this one gets firmly into place and built.  The neighborhood affected?  Riedenberg.

The locals don't want it.  Over 1,500 have registered complaints so far, and the numbers continue to rise.  The issues?  It bring chaos, more traffic, crime, skyscraper "shadows" upon the landscape (yeah, they actually said that), and urbanization.

All of this planning comes up against the a rule which was laid into place about two decades ago.  The rule basically said that you could buy only up to four floors.  This kept the landscape within reason, and made people think of things as non-urban.  I's hard to fool someone into thinking a four-floor building is less urban than a six-floor building, but that's the type of naive public that you deal with here.  The same type exist in Washington DC, with a similar four-floor rule.  A waiver would have to be accomplished, and likely set the stage for more waivers in the future.

There are three problems here which are unique to German society and driving this entire debate.

First, not in my backyard (NIMB).  It doesn't matter if you talk power-generator wind-mills, or bridges, or apartment houses.....Germans bring NIMB into most discussions.  They want things to stay the way they are.  Then they counter that they need more clean power, more accessible bridges to cross rivers, and more apartments.  It's a false argument because you can't have one without the other.  Go suggest a new gas station for your end of town which currently has none.....then watch the flares go up by community groups as they fight to preserve the neighborhood from a single gas station.

Second, everyone in Frankfurt will readily agree that housing is a major problem.  It's risen up to the top three problems of the city.  The mayor speaks on this weekly.  The community planners often get drawn into debates over this.  The solution as they all get around to talking building more apartment buildings.  The location of these?  Well....there simply isn't enough room within the inner city of Frankfurt you have to build on the outskirts....near to S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations.  There is no choice.  Anyone stating privileged urban goals.....needs to think about where you put homes in the future.  Building fifty or sixty kilometers away?  It just won't work.

Third, there are lots of areas around Germany which have enjoyed urban growth and not seen decay or crime figure into the situation.  Those success stories?  They rarely if ever get told.  I don't see many spoken about on German news or documentary shows.  I know they exist.....I can see those neighborhoods in Wiesbaden.  If the high-rise communities come to the outer edge of Frankfurt.....they need some inspiration and planning to make the locals feel it's not inviting a mess later.  To be honest.....most just don't want it to be another Offenbach (a negative neighborhood of Frankfurt).

So, if you hear of hostile talk in Frankfurt over construction permits.....this is the basic story.

Update: 24 Oct 2014: City mayor of Frankfurt stops the project.  Too much public pressure.

No comments: