HAMBURG STUDY TOUR REVIEW by Paul Winstanley, Partner, Allsop LLP
If you want to encourage a wide range of stakeholders to come together and inspire large scale, mixed use, community based development, you need look no further than Hamburg for a template that delivers results. That was certainly the underlying message I took from attending the ULI’s Study Tour to the second biggest city in Germany in early June (as jointly arranged by the ULI UK Councils).
In the UK we all too often debate what the bottle neck to development is; and it always seems to be someone else’s fault. Whether the blame is directed towards landowners, planning departments, Local Authorities, investors or developers, all seem to come in for equal criticism as to why we seem unable to build quickly here in the UK.
Yet in Hamburg, they seem to have found a blueprint to make large-scale development work much more efficiently – not just in terms of decision making, but, crucially, product delivery.
Vitally important to the process is that the City of Hamburg itself clearly takes the lead – investing its own money in housing and infrastructure via a clear and considered plan. Investors/developers line up for designated zoned sites – whether residential, office or retail (depending on the master plan). Architects compete via competitions to design blocks based on agreed accommodation and the City makes sure the infrastructure and services are in place to facilitate the finished article. Investors invest with confidence with little planning risk. And, although not without some short term frustrations (its not perfect, but what is?), buildings and communities are empowered to evolve at a pace.
The two most impressive achievements we witnessed were undoubtedly the creation of Hafen City, a vast waterside development which will eventually house 105 developments with just over half already completed, and in and around Wilhelmsburg where during a International Building Exhibition (between 2006 and 2013) 70 new projects were completed. The scale of development is extremely impressive and far beyond what we would anticipate in the UK.
As a residential specialist, I was amazed to see the sheer scale of residential development within these mixed-use schemes. Although mainly for rent, the developments also included units for sale (particularly on the waterfront); but to see so many new units built so rapidly was inspiring.
We also saw phenomenal innovation in terms of sustainability and infrastructure, for example, an enormous WWII concrete bunker that had once sheltered 30,000 people a night during Allied bombing has now been converted into an ‘Energiebunker’ powering 3000 homes a year!
During our trip we were given unrestricted access to information by ULI Hamburg Council leaders and I am sure I speak for all tour members in sincerely thanking them for their time and effort as well as their open attitude.
Thanks also to Alex Notay for organising such a great tour. Everything ran to clockwork but the masterstroke was that there was just enough flexibility factored in to allow us to take advantage of the opportunity to see even more developments than we’d expected to.