Łódź: financing urban renewal
Łódź is one of the biggest cities in Poland and historically a leading centre of the textile industry. After many years of economic and demographic decline, the city is now looking to reinvent itself with a major urban renewal initiative.
Łódź has a rich and diverse urban heritage, including a dense city centre with a mix of historical and post-industrial buildings and areas. The central area of the city, with its unique, historic urban structure dating from the turn of the 19th century, has unutilised economic and cultural potential.
Years of economic problems have led to many abandoned factories, which were left to decay in some of the most central areas of the city. The center has long remained neglected, and the integrated development of this zone was made even more difficult with the opening of the railway line leading to the Łódź Fabryczna railway station.
The New Centre of Łódź
In 2011, the City of Łódź requested a PLN 200 000 000 loan (EUR 50 million) from the CEB for the partial financing of the New Centre of Łódź - one of the biggest urban renewal projects in the history of the city.
The main investments will aim inter alia at:
- revitalising various city centre areas, including public spaces, local roads and access infrastructure, utilities networks, green spaces, refurbishment of historical and post-industrial buildings,
- promoting cultural infrastructure, through the extension of the municipal theatre, the adaptation of a former central heating unit of the textile museum into an interactive exhibition and the transformation of a former heating plant into a cultural and artistic centre (see details in the box).
Altogether 90ha of land have been redeveloped, including the building of a multimodal railway station with fast connections to Warsaw and Wroclaw.
Financed by the CEB, the EC1 project – the revitalisation of the heat and power plant and its adaptation for cultural and artistic purposes - was the flagship of the urban renovation of Łódź.
Located in the city centre, the power plant functioned until 2001 but has since been abandoned, showing progressive signs of decay. Failure to revitalise it would have led to irreparable losses and rendered a large area in the centre of Łódź unfit for public use.
With the CEB’s financial contribution, the former heat plant has since been transformed into the city’s main cultural centre: EC1 west is to house an interactive science centre; EC1 south-east will be used as a film studio; and EC1 west will hold the World Arts Foundation. The cost of this project is EUR 70 million.
The EC1 initiative is a flagship project located in a pedestrian area adjacent to the railway station. The construction work was difficult as the area was polluted and neglected; however, the results are now spectacular. It is possible to estimate that the number of people using the new infrastructure in the revitalised EC1 area will amount to at least 800 000 a year.
An additional impact of the project has been to increase in the significance of Łódź as a centre of culture, to enhance its metropolitan functions and to boost its image as a modern city. Thanks to increased tourist activity, the revitalisation of the heat and power station will entail the creation of jobs not just in EC1 itself, but in the immediate surroundings of the revitalised areas.
Moreover, the creation of a new open public space in the area of EC1, as well as the renovation of run-down buildings, will lead to an increase in the value of real estate in the very centre of Łódź.
With its ambitious urban renewal initiative, Łódź aims to create better conditions for sustained economic development and better living conditions for the city’s inhabitants.
In the long run, this can also help reduce the gap between Poland and the more developed economies of the EU by facilitating access to credit for the upgrade of local infrastructure.
The regeneration of brownfield areas will boost the efficient functioning of the city centre, including the central railway station, as well the city’s competitiveness.
The transformation of a former industrial site into a major cultural venue, enriches the cultural offer for the local inhabitants and makes the city more attractive to visitors.
Funds from the CEB have provided much needed flexibility to the City of Łódź. The fact that the revitalisation of EC-1 did not have to be financed entirely with the city’s own resources made it possible to avoid commercialisation, which would otherwise have been inevitable.
The CEB's financing facilitated the implementation of the city’s investment programme, thereby improving the well-being of local populations and, ultimately, reinforcing social cohesion in the city area. This financing for one of the largest Polish cities has further raised the CEB’s profile as a key lending institution to the local public sector.