Bild: nerdwithoutglasses (CC BY 2.0)

When Urban Development Is Behind Times

This text is part of our district magazine Lichtenberger Stachel (Lichtenberg Sting). Check out the full magazine here (unfortunately only in German).

Rummelsburg Bay has been developed into a popular residential quarter and the embankment area entices relaxation seekers. However, for years the bay of Rummelsburg has been providing topics for discussions, especially due to the last still undeveloped real estate. For 26 years, a development plan procedure has been ongoing which should regulate the development of the last lots. In those years, diverse and changing use has been established in the free areas. Cultural venues have been developed, space for diverse people and nature. In three decades obviously the needs of a city and their citizens change, the answer to the question “what does the city need?” is different today than years or decades ago. The tedious procedure has fallen short on this development.

 On 29th of April 2019, the development plan was passed by the district council (Bezirksverordnetenversammlung BVV) under great protest of the population. The council members of the Greens have voted united against this plan, and that with good reasons. The now passed development plan finalises the sale of the, until now state-owned, real estate to private investors. A sin in a time where public areas are rare and the debate on progressive urban development is more intense than ever.

In 2016, close to the end of the legislative period, the Red-Black senate closed the deal to sell the real estate. The change of ownership was completed with the passing of the development plan by the BVV. But not only the sale of the land itself is a bad decision for Lichtenberg. Also, the future usage of the land is completely behind times. Next to a big commercial building complex emerges a big aquarium with exotic animals, trying to entice hundreds of thousands of tourists. Existing apartment buildings and workshops are being demolished, for them mostly new and more expensive apartments will be built. For the established cultural venues, no place is being left and also the people living there without any shelter need to search for a different place. What will not be built in this area: a very much needed school. An alternative plan has been developed by citizens. The initiative “Rummelsburger Bucht für alle” (Rummelsburg Bay for everyone) has shown what would have been possible if the district government had had the guts to renew the planning thoroughly. The alternative concept was taking into account space for culture, small-scale industry, affordable apartments and social infrastructure. It would have done away with streets and left more space for green spaces and urban nature. We Lichtenberg Greens have always supported and endorsed those alternative plans.

What to do now? We need to learn. We need to be ready to confront ourselves with the process, comprehend mistakes and develop ideas how to do better next time. Development plan procedures can be given an expiration date. When the development plan is not closed within this time, it needs to be stopped and, if needed, started from scratch. An arbitration board for pressing issues in urban development processes („Schiedsstelle für akute Problemfälle in Stadtentwicklungsprozessen“) could mediate where pushed planning is not accepted by the population. A first step has already been made. The Red-Red-Green senate has passed guidelines for citizen participation. With those, participation gets easier and more transparent as it will be made clear when which type of participation is possible.

The author Philipp Ahrens is co-chair of the Lichtenberg Greens.

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Kreisverband Lichtenberg von Bündnis 90/Die Grünen

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