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Will seniors revitalize the Old Town? Reconstruction of a former hospital in Poznan begins

04 of January '22

A neglected and sizable section of Poznan's Old Town will finally see renewal. A long-announced private senior care center will be built in the former city hospital. The redevelopment project, however, presents a level somewhat below the high profile of the site. It seems that the very long wait for the investment has lowered the requirements for this very important urban area. The reason to rejoice is basically the fact that something is finally happening.

The southwestern part of Poznań's strict Old Town is an area of shame. For many years it has been haunted by a dilapidated tenement in the corner of the Old Market and, above all, the abandoned former municipal hospital between Szkolna, Podgórna and Kozia streets. Right next door is the extremely neglected Wiosny Ludów Square. Medics moved out of Szkolna Street in 2012, but even before that the condition of the hospital complex left much to be desired. The gloomy hospital building constituted almost the entire western frontage of the street, which was part of a route leading straight from the Old Market, through Wiosny Ludów Square and Półwiejska Street to the Stary Browar shopping and cultural center (designed by Studio ADS, construction: 2003, 2007).


Former municipal hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - view from Old Market Square

photo: Jakub Głaz

Over the past two decades there have been various plans to transform the medical facilities. In 2006, loose and rather breakneck plans for the development of the entire extensive, wooded courtyard of the medical center were presented in the press. However, city authorities had trouble selling the complex. Part of the reason was its historic nature. The hospital, whose activities began here in the mid-19th century, occupied the facilities of a converted Carmelite nunnery, a building on Szkolna Street erected for the hospital in the late 1870s and early 1880s, and a number of tenements on Podgórna Street absorbed as the therapeutic complex developed. Meanwhile, the spacious courtyard contained, among other things, the remains of the old city walls and a bastion, as well as a villa belonging to the famous 19th-century entrepreneur and social activist Hipolit Cegielski.

The former municipal hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - view from Kozia Street
The extensive courtyard area has been stripped of numerous trees and the remains of former buildings

photo: Jakub Głaz

demolition and cutting out

Eventually, after several unsuccessful approaches and a price cut, most of the hospital complex was bought by ORPEA in 2016 and announced the installation of a high-end senior care home. It paid 40 million zlotys for the buildings along with the grounds, but with numerous stipulations regarding the historic substance. Protections included the courtyard buildings and the old-growth forest. The city trumpeted success, the media showed visuals in which the main hospital building was restored to much of its former beauty (link to archival photo: here) lost after post-war alterations: plastering of brick walls with interesting details, removal of decorative gables and superstructure by one story in the 1960s.

However, the real start of work was steadily delayed, and subsequent versions of the project were more modest. A return to almost complete uncovering of the original brick facades was abandoned, and the more contemporary in form buildings on the courtyard side presented a mediocre level. Finally, the developer succeeded in obtaining permission from conservationists and the department responsible for environmental protection to demolish the courtyard buildings they had protected earlier (along with the remains of Cegielski's villa) and to cut down some 50 trees. This highly controversial decision, criticized, among others, by neighborhood councilors, was explained by the City Historic Preservation Officer Joanna Bielawska-Pałczyńska in an enigmatic way:

The City Historic Preservationist's approach to the hospital's back buildings changed after research and expert opinions were performed

Thus, there were fears that ORPEA would sell the site cleared of investment obstacles at a profit. Fortunately, it limited itself only to the disposal of two corner tenements just off Wiosny Ludów Square, and at the end of December announced that on January 10 it would start with the reconstruction and adaptation of the hospital not only into a luxury nursing home for seniors under the hype name Residence on Szkolna Street, but also - the Alzheimer's Center. It is to house 209 beds in single and double rooms. Also envisaged are day care "lounges," a library, its own kitchen with a restaurant, and therapy rooms of various types. The complex is also to include senior apartments, i.e. assisted living facilities for people living independently, but with round-the-clock care. Architects from the SPA Biuro Projektów studio from Poznań are responsible for the shape and function of the whole. Eiffage Polska will be the contractor for the construction work.

more modest, but with a garage

And what about the exterior form? The latest visualizations show one of the more modest versions of the project (see visualization at the beginning of the text). The original brick and the details made in it will be seen only on the risalits and the framing of the entrances on Szkolna Street and the side wall from Kozia Street. The rest will be covered with light plaster. The top floor, added half a century ago, will be covered by a kind of heavy mansard, enlivened by an irregular rhythm of modern dormers loosely referring to the old form of the roof and gables. New, more intimate buildings (including a café with a display of the city walls) and greenery (including an outdoor gym and therapeutic paths) will appear in the courtyard. It will be - and this is very good news - partly a public area. On the other hand, as Poznan's Gazeta Wyborcza recently reported, the investor may build an underground parking lot within the courtyard, even though the provincial conservator opposed such a solution during the sale.

szkolna_orpea_poznan_2 szkolna_orpea_poznan_2

Senior center in the former municipal hospital on Szkolna Street in Poznan - visualization
1. View of the courtyard from the west side against the background of the transformed hospital buildings,
2. view of the courtyard from the northwest side

SPA Design Office ©ORPEA

Completion of the investment is planned for the turn of 2023/24. Construction workers in the coming days will join teams that - for other investors - have been remodeling or adapting former hospital tenements on Podgórna Street for several months. If all the projects are successful, although without architectural fireworks, the neglected area of the Old Town will come alive and gain a neat appearance. Visible from the neglected Wiosny Ludów Square, it will also raise the quality of the square somewhat and hopefully speed up the work on bringing its substandard space to a decent state.

Jakub Głaz

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