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Revitalization to revitalization

21 of July '20

The revitalization program for Poznan's Środka district was supposed to be a prelude to more ambitious measures, but turned out to be more of a final chord. In Poznań, revitalization, understood in the proper sense of the word, is going through a slump.

The pioneering program to revitalize Measures began in 2006 and was a pilot. The district was ideally suited for such a test. Microscopic and with problems, it was cut off from the Old Town and Ostrow Tumski after the war. The magistrate then asked for help from Dr. Andreas Billert, a Polish revitalization specialist who had worked on it for a quarter of a century in Germany. Billert's experience, combined with the enthusiasm of several officials (led by Lech Łangowski and Lech Podbrez), was to result in a real revitalization. One in which the renewal of downtown's monuments and tenements would be accompanied by an improvement in the economic and social situation of residents and businesses operating here. The phrase "public participation" was also conjugated up in all cases .

It quickly became apparent that Polish law and habits could not keep up with such a comprehensive approach. The very announcement of revitalization entailed speculative actions by property owners. Stores and businesses disappeared, old residents moved out. Seeing what was happening, Billert began to openly criticize the Polish approach to revitalization being mainly a machine for obtaining EU funds for renovations. He warned against gentrification, the transformation of revitalized areas into a tourist product and the marginalization of existing residents. He was right, and at the same time he was increasingly unwilling to be listened to in Poznan's city hall. The renewal of Srodka did take place, but differently than originally planned. Infrastructure led the way.

Srodka becomes fashionable

The breakthrough came with the restoration of the Cybinski (now: Bishop Jordan) Bridge between Srodka and Ostrow Tumski. The crossing, this time as a footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists, returned to its place over the Cybina River in 2007, thirty-seven years after the demolition of the makeshift postwar bridge. Tourists and Poznanians began to slowly appear in Srodka. The former Philippine monastery was renovated, and on the banks of the Cybina River the city decided to build the Interactive Center of History of Ostrow Tumski (ICHOT, later: Poznań Gate).

Brama Poznania (ICHOT)
– widok z mostu Biskupa Jordana (2015)

The Gate of Poznań (ICHOT) - view from the Bishop Jordan Bridge (2015)

photo: Jakub Głaz

ICHOT was built according to a competition design by Emerla Wojda's AD ARTIS studio from Krakow (2010). The successful and bold concrete cube was partially suspended over the Cybina riverbed. Thus, in 2014, a new cultural institution came to Srodka and the city. Unfortunately, a few years earlier, the highly regarded Malta studio cinema had to disappear from the district. The curia, to which the cinema building belonged, restored it and gave it to the cathedral choir school. The revitalization realities also did not survive the bookstore with café.

It wasn't until 2013 that new bars and restaurants began to operate more vigorously in the district, including the well-publicized "Paradise" and "La Ruina" (moved to the city center a year ago). Renovations, infill construction or extensions of townhouses began. Two of them were converted into a hotel. Srodka became fashionable.

„La Ruina”,
najbardziej popularna restauracja na Śródce (przeniesiona w 2019 roku do centrum)

"La Ruina", the most popular restaurant in Srodka (moved to the center in 2019).

photo: Jakub Głaz

Local community activists were also active in Srodka all the time, with social and cultural events held in cooperation with the city. Designers and activists from the Wandering Architects association won a competition to design a revaluation of the entire district. However, their bold ideas did not make it into the local plan passed for Srodka three years ago. Thus, the possibility of restoring the old market, which disappeared during the construction of a thoroughfare in the 1960s (today's Wyszynski Street), was rejected. A representative of the Wandering Architects, Radoslaw Barek, left another mark on Srodka: a colorful illusionist mural. Tourists and Poznanians fell in love with it immediately, Srodka gained a strong symbol, although artists and mural experts still reproach the painting for its infantile form.

z rewitalizacyjnych festynów na Śródce (październik 2015)

One of the revitalization festivities in Srodka (October 2015), with the mural by Radoslaw Bark in the background

photo: Jakub Głaz

Today, after renovations and new investments, Srodka looks almost like from under a needle. However, it is first and foremost a popular gastronomic hub - one of the alternatives to the Old Town. In short, an interesting tourist product with the addition of residential, hotel and educational functions. The former residents here are becoming fewer and fewer.

There are also fewer and fewer intentions in Poznań to implement true revitalization. Since the change of authorities in 2014, Poznań has been renovating and changing a lot more public spaces, but it hasn't gotten as comprehensive and thoughtful as, for example, the revitalization program of the capital's Praga district. As across the country, the term "revitalization" is making a big splash, but is mistakenly equated with renovation or modernization. The economic, social and cultural aspects of the term have been forgotten.

najnowsza plomba przy
ul. Ostrówek na Śródce, w głębi kamienice przekształcone na hotel

The latest plomba on Ostrówek Street in Srodka, with tenement houses converted to a hotel in the background

photo: Jakub Głaz

The thriving City Council committee on revitalization, which was successfully created and led from 2010 to 2014 by Mariusz Wisniewski, then a councilman and now a deputy mayor, is also no longer active. The former Revitalization Department, being part of the Office of Project Coordination and City Revitalization, was losing its importance, and after personnel reshuffles. The upper hand was given to efficient "project coordination" - managing the otherwise necessary modernization and aesthetics of streets and squares (Święty Marcin Street, Kolegiacki Square, Stary Rynek, Rynek Łazarski, Ratajczaka Street). The margin became the clou of revitalization: the social and economic aspect, public participation and comprehensive renewal of the most neglected areas.

The vote has already been cast