Friday January 11th the book ‘City at eye level, lessons for street plinths’ has been launched in Rotterdam. According to the website www.thecityateyelevel.com:
“The plinths of the city are the ground floors that negotiate between the inside and the outside, between the public and the private: this is the city at eye level. Plinths are extremely important for the urban experience, which in turn is an important driver for the urban economy. The plinths might cover only 10% of the building, but determine 90% of the experience. While walking, you consciously and subconsciously examine the immediate eye-level surroundings and absorb any details.
Our book shows you how a good plinth “works” for a better street at eye level. It contains concrete and inspiring examples of strategies for design, land use/programme, the relation to the street, passenger flows and the collaboration of partners. The book is a collection of stories from over 25 experts all over the world: a collective product with lessons from planners, owners, managers and designers. In addition to many international examples and case studies, the book contains several interviews and research articles. It concludes with practical lessons for the reader to put into practice in their own cities.”
The city at eye level promotes a plinth strategy for the city in order to give an impulse to the urban experience and the urban economy.
In the summer of 2007 the ‘Coalition Project 1012’ started. This collaborative project initiated by the municipality, intends to reduce crime and to contribute to the economic upgrading of the postcode area 1012, the Red Light District in Amsterdam. 1012 is located in the heart of historic Amsterdam and is a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad. In order to maintain and improve this condition the Red Light District should be diversified. One of the applied strategies is a street-oriented one. Quite some red light windows and coffeeshops will dissappear after negotiation with the owners. To upgrade the street, ‘streetteams’ will be established who together with the inhabitants and entrepreneurs will make a vision for the street or a cluster of streets. Together with parties who already have position in the area a strategy to buy property has been set up. This property gets another function. Successful is to attract the creative industry. This sector feels at home within urban and ‘rawer’ conditions and are not scared off by the dubious industry which is just around the corner. The 1012 project already added several interesting creative spaces to the Red Light District like Ultra de La Rue Creative Space on the picture below. In the Rua General Jardim in São Paulo a similar strategy upgraded a prostitution street with the addition of a school for architecture, the Escola de Cidade and the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil. This resulted in a weird mix of functions and people on the street, but above all it established a safer and more attractive street in downtown São Paulo.
On the 13th of October the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam, one of the longest shoppingstreets in the Netherlands, reopened. After a period of refurbishment of public space, renovation of facades and attracting new entrepreneurs an impoverished street becomes an attractive city street again. What has been done to succesfully revitalize a run down street in the city?
Renovating shops and attracting entrepreneurs As part of the revitalization of the Nieuwe Binnenweg in Delfshaven entrepreneurs who want to invest in the quality, appearance, safetymeasures or location of their store on the Nieuwe Binnenweg have the opportunity to apply for a subsidy. Entrepreneurs can apply for a subsidy for 55% of their renovationcosts up to a maximum of € 15.000, – (excluding VAT) per application. As entrepreneurs want to move along the Nieuwe Binnenweg for being part of one of the ‘branded themes’ like fashion, food or adventure they can apply for up to 55% of their relocationcosts to a maximum of € 7.000, – (excluding VAT).
An active campaign, branding the street and a phonenumber An active campaign and the branding which positions the run down street in the niche of creatives which live in the neighbourhoods around the street gained recognition which encouraged entrepreneurs to add to the concept. The type of shops which opened since the project started in 2008 are for example: a vintage tableware shop, an organic supermarket, an halal butcher, a furniture shop, an energy saving shop and LED advice, an eco design shop, south american fashion shop, an ice cream shop, a hip coffee shop and many more. Besides the campaign there is a phonenumber to call for if you are interested. That helps excited entrepreneurs to avoid bureaucracy.
Refurbishment of public space The refurbishment of public space add to the comprehensive concept which has been the objective. It consists out of the replacement of paving, pavement, street furniture and lighting. The paving was for example tarmac, but has been changed into clay brickwork. Also the tram tracks are updated, a little further apart, placed in such a way that the new trams of Rotterdam easily can pass eachother. The tramstops are raised and slightly expanded. The amount of electricitypoles for the tram has been reduced from 70 to 38 pieces
Loft Project Etagi in the heart of St. Petersburg is a good example of how to intensify the inner city. Two St. Petersburg architects took up the initiative to converse the former Smolinsky Bread Factory into an urban meeting point and creative space.The conversed factory houses three galleries, two exhibition spaces, a couple of design- and bookshops, a hostel and the cafe-bar. Café Green Room has a great summer terrace on the roof of the factory. One floor below you find a huge loft space which offers workspace for numerous free-lancers and small businesses on demand. Hidden behind a small door at the street the programmatic ensemble makes use of a potential space which is all over the city in the courtyards of the typical Petersburg building block. Key feature of this complex is the combination with attractors like the hostel and the summer terrace. The kitchen prepares good food and drinks without any profit but is an important driver behind the liveability of the whole.