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Our dear Central Park in Gdynia. A space of many activities, but not without shortcomings

11 of September '23

At a cost of more than PLN 83 million, a six-hectare Central Park was created in the center of Gdynia. After the beautiful visualizations whetted a big appetite, the whole premise today does not produce a great "wow" effect. Nevertheless, the residents of Gdynia have gained an interesting new space for many different activities.

The roots of the investment date back to May 2017. It was then that the City unexpectedly presented the concept of creating an urban park in the Wzgórze św. Maksymiliana neighborhood. Visualizations were impressive, the park from a bird's eye view was to evoke Central Park in New York. The road to realization was not easy, however, because although residents applauded the city's plans, there was also no shortage of controversy.

trump land free of development

The design concept was prepared by the Gdynia studio Arch-Deco Sp. z o.o., known for its design of the Gdynia Film Center, the Yacht Park housing development in Gdynia and the Center for Invasive Medicine in Gdansk, among others. Gdynia's flagship project was implemented in stages, the first, worth PLN 7.4 million, was handed over to residents in 2019, the next - for more than PLN 10 million - three years later. The third, final stage, lived to see its opening a few days ago. In total, the work consumed PLN 83 million, the park creates more than 15,000 square meters of publicly accessible space.

First of all, an undoubted plus is that the area has been left free of development. Few remember that in the past a new city hall and shopping complex were planned on part of the land. This is worth appreciating when in our cities, often at the expense of green areas, more attractive plots of land are allocated for new development.

Not so long ago, a few years ago, the zoning plans called for a large shopping center, a new city hall and a large city square, a market, but the world is changing. In discussions with residents about how to shape this space, the idea of a park was born," said Wojciech Szczurek, mayor of Gdynia, during the opening of the investment.

What is the result? On a sunny Sunday afternoon the park was besieged by strollers. Zones for various activities were separated on the vast area. In addition to greenery, paths and small architecture, one will find here, among others, a sensory garden, outdoor gyms, a dog run, large playgrounds for children, a rope playground, an expanded skate park, a multimedia fountain, a biological pond, two pavilions with food services, a picnic glade, tracks for skaters and joggers.

Many visitors, trodden paths

Visually, the last, recreational part of the park stands out, stretching from the pavilion at the skatepark to the intersection of al. marsz. Pilsudski with the popular Swietojanska Street. It's hardly surprising: people are attracted by the green lawns, nicely arranged seats and water - this is where the pond is located, which will turn into a slide in winter. The city boasts that 156 new trees, more than 11.6 thousand shrubs of various species; more than 4.3 thousand climbing plants; more than 40 thousand bulbous plants; more than 7.1 thousand ornamental grasses; more than 3 thousand perennials of various species have been created as part of this stage.

Gdyński Park Centralny jest już w całości dostępny dla odwiedzających

Gdynia Central Park is now fully accessible to visitors

photo: Ewa Karendys

One of the key elements in the park should be wisely laid out paths. It depends on them to make the use of green space intuitive and comfortable. Although there are many walking places, the potential has not been fully exploited - residents vote with their feet - they shorten the way and trample their own paths. Chaos reigns on the paths for walkers, joggers and cyclists - although those separated separately cause consternation. Users know that the yellow surface is a soft running path, the darker surface is harder, for rollerblading and roller skating. On the other hand, it's not a feature that can't still be fixed, if only with clear signage, which is lacking today.

controversial parking lot

The trouble is that part of the green development is also an underground parking lot for two hundred and seventy cars. Gdynia has not listened to activists' demands to do away with the costly parking spaces, and use the money saved, if only for additional greenery. It is hard to agree with officials that the parking lot is another step toward sustainable mobility and green streets that will encourage walking and spending time "in the city." Parking is an incentive to come by car, which will inject more cars into the city center. It's hard to defend this decision, as the site is well connected - close to ZKM stops and the Wzgórze św. Maksymiliana SKM station.

On the plus side: it's worth recalling that even before work began, Gdynia activists also called for changes in the project. Several comments were taken into account: the area reaching Tetmajera Street was included in the park - the later first stage was created in this additional space, traffic calming on Piłsudskiego Avenue, where new elevated walkways leading directly into the park were created.

waiting for the trees to grow

After the visualizations whetted a big appetite, the whole premise today does not produce much of a "wow" effect. There are claims among residents that the park lacks trees and could have relied on more greenery. And indeed the trees in the visualizations look more impressive. In addition, 75 trees have been cut down.

Gdyński Park Centralny jest już w całości dostępny dla odwiedzających

Gdynia Central Park is now fully accessible to visitors

photo: Ewa Karendys

The trees that were cut down were mainly poplars, which made room for rowan trees. The cutting down of shrubs was connected with cleaning up the area and creating space for the new attractive greenery of Central Park, says Agata Grzegorczyk, spokeswoman for the City Hall of Gdynia.

Meanwhile, 156 trees were planted in the final stage of the project, among the species we can find plane trees, willows, alders, cherry trees, multi-stem and black pines, pear trees, rowan trees, and amber trees. We'll have to wait for the results, much will depend on the quality of the plantings and how the trees take up. Urban trees today are threatened by the climate crisis and the associated rise in global temperatures.

Nevertheless, the park was intended to be a space of new functions, adapted to the needs of different groups of residents, regardless of age, needs and physical fitness - and it meets these assumptions.

Ewa Karendys

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