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The end of the big hovel at the Old Market in Poznan? A competition is planned

03 of April '24

There is a chance that a hospital complex just off Poznan's Old Market Square will finally cease to haunt. The former city medical clinic has gone into the hands of AP Marchewka, a company owned by one of the richest Poles. The previous owner, the Orpea company, partially demolished the buildings and canceled the investment. Now a collaboration with the "VOX brand" and a design competition is planned.

"Gutted" and partially demolished walls of the City Hospital, closed for more than a decade, have been haunting right next to the just-renovated Old Market Square for two years. At the time, the Orpea Poland company stopped work that had barely begun, which was supposed to lead to the creation of the so-called Senior Center, a private care center for the elderly. The company then canceled all Polish investments. This coincided with a scandal that erupted around the company's activities in its home country of France (including mistreatment of patients).

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

The former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - view of the site from Kozia Street, after demolition and tree cutting. On the left - the northern elevation of the new/old tenement house on Podgórna Street, in front - the new steel structure of the Vienna Tenement House (behind it - the preserved facades), as of February 2023 (no major changes to date)

Photo: Jakub Głaz

Orpea announced the sale of the site and buildings. The transaction came to fruition on Tuesday, April 2. The press release reads that

the plot was bought by AP Marchewka Investment from Wroclaw, which plans to work closely with the VOX brand from Poznan, owned by Piotr Voelkel junior [it's about Piotr Wit Voelkel - editor's note]. The deal included more than a hectare of land between Szkolna, Kozia and Podgórna streets. The complex includes, among other things, a four-story building of the former hospital and a wing of the former Carmelite convent.

Billionaire and brand

So well-known names and companies have entered the game. Pawel Marchewka is a billionaire (fifth on the list of the richest Poles in 2023 according to Wprost weekly) who made his fortune in the computer games industry (Techland company). So far in Poznań, he has to his credit the conversion of the former BGK bank on Wolności Square into a hotel. In turn, the Voelkel family is behind well-known investments in Poznań(Concordia Design at the Kaponiera traffic circle, the iconic Bałtyk office building designed by MVRDV, Collegium da Vinci with Aula Artis) and Wrocław (Concordia Design on Słodowa Island, also designed by MVRDV). The financial background of the investor and the experience - as the announcement puts it - of the "VOX brand" give hope that this time the hospital and its adjacent land will finally see renewal.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

The former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - the "gutted" building behind the protective netting, view towards the Old Market Square, state as of March 2023, unchanged until now

Photo: Jakub Głaz

What is to be built on the site of the former historic medical center, developed from the 18th to the 20th century in the southwestern part of today's Old Town? The announcements are so far very general. The concrete is one: instead of a "senior center," there are to be high-end large apartments and service spaces. The press release also raises a declaration by Aleksandra Marchewka of AP Marchewka Investment that the new owner "at this stage" rules out so-called micro-apartments, which "are often a concern for the local community." In addition, the press release reports that:

"the investor envisions locating city-generating services within the complex, including catering and selected retail and service outlets. Preliminary assumptions include an open courtyard with an entrance from Szkolna Street, which is a key change from the status quo and will enable the creation of a quiet enclave just off the Old Market.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - view of the hospital site from Podgórna Street

photo: Jakub Głaz

for those invited

The program is therefore general, and the target form of the complex, which is under conservation protection , is unknown. However, the announcement of the organization of an architectural competition was made, accompanied by the following comment:

high-quality architecture is one of the key objectives of the investment. The location in the heart of Poznań obliges. Recall that the building of the former hospital constitutes almost the entire western frontage of Szkolna Street. It is also part of an important route leading from the Old Brewery along Półwiejska Street through Wiosny Ludów Square to the Old Market Square. It also includes historic fragments of the city walls, which will be preserved and exposed.

As Karolina Koziolek of the VOX Group informs us, the competition will have a closed formula, with the participation of invited design offices. The terms of the competition will have to take into account conservation guidelines and the provisions of the "Old Town" local zoning plan passed last year (it replaced the imperfect MPZP from two decades ago). The document allows for the introduction of residential and service functions to existing buildings and the construction of a sizable volume in a spacious courtyard.

The competition may be a chance for a better project than the concept of the SPA Biuro Projektów studio from Poznań, which Orpea wanted to implement. That's because the firm decided not to fully uncover the brick historicizing facades covered with plaster during the post-war reconstruction. Only the risalits with entrances to the building (but without recreating the decorative gables) were to refer to the former appearance.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - now outdated project of Senior Center in former Municipal Hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - visualization

proj SPA Design Office © ORPEA

An expensive gift?

Unfortunately, the new buyers do not disclose how much their post-hospital acquisition cost. The history of the would-be investment, however, leads us to believe that Orpea could have profited significantly from the transaction. After all, the city sold the former medical center in 2016 for about 40 million zlotys. This low price was due to the rather restrictive guidelines of the Office of the City Historic Preservation Officer. In the hospital courtyard, among other things, the remains of Hipolit Cegielski's villa and some of the other buildings were to be preserved, and there was no permission for an underground parking lot. Old trees were also to be saved.

However, when the start of construction of the "senior center" was delayed, the MKZ Office agreed to the demolition and underground parking garage, citing unspecified new "studies and expertise." The relevant department of the City Council, in turn, allowed half a hundred trees to be cut down. In all likelihood, this increased the value of the property(without any compensation to the City). In addition, Orpea sold two tenements on Wiosny Ludów Square that were part of the hospital complex to another investor.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - "gutted" building behind protective netting

photo: Jakub Głaz

Later, in 2022, intensive demolition work began. The roofs, the top floor added in the 1960s and much of the interior walls were removed. Only the most valuable building of the former monastery (the oldest part of the hospital) was decently secured. Two years ago, "Gazeta Wyborcza" reported an estimate that the Orpea hospital could expect to receive about 70 million zlotys for the slimmed-down sold houses. The loosening of preservation restrictions that followed the sale of the hospital thus appeared to be a kind of gift to the investor. So far , however, nothing is known about an audit or investigation to look into the matter.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu, północna pierzeja ul. Podgórnej w Poznaniu, wizualizacja

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznań, northern frontage of Podgórna Street in Poznań, visualization - this is how the "Vienna Tenement House" is to look like, view from Wiosny Ludów Square, right: Szkolna Street proj. SPA Biuro Projektowe


it's partly better

It remains to be hoped, then, that the new owner will operate at a level that will compensate the City for the unfortunate sale and the years of waiting for the transformation of the former hospital. For now, its southern part is being revived. Work is nearing completion on a major redevelopment of the townhouses sold by Orpea. Next to them, on Podgórna Street, another investor has thoroughly transformed yet another tenement house and is building another one - on the site of a demolished building. These houses will eventually form an urban whole with the transformed hospital area.

dawny szpital przy ul. Szkolnej w Poznaniu

Former hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - completed tenement house at 9 Podgórna Street (designed by Easst Architects)

photo: Jakub Głaz

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast