Open and green Olsztyn

POLAND Olsztyn city council is working on a redevelopment programme to enhance and modernise areas around the city centre. The revitalised district is to be made friendlier for residents, and particularly pedestrians and cyclists, ‘greener’ and more open.

Ewa Gadomska, the city’s chief architect and the coordinator of the Olsztyn downtown modernisation project, is now working on the concept. “The renovated, sparkling with life city centre will be an incentive increasing Olsztyn’s competitiveness by improving the quality of life and the conditions for operating businesses,” is how Ewa Gadomska explains the rationale behind the improvements. The proposed changes will not only include the redevelopment of traffic routes but also the city’s public transportation systems. “None of those contributing to the traffic, whether pedestrians, cyclists, drivers or public transport users, can be discriminated against. However, we aim to make walking around the centre of Olsztyn particularly attractive. We will facilitate this by providing large areas of public space with parks, historic monuments and squares, as well as retail and services,” she adds.

More retail and services on the streets

The modernisation project involves the creation of new town squares. There will also be some additional green areas and all of this is to be integrated with restored retail and service premises along the pedestrian routes. The city also plans to solve the parking issue by reorganising public car parks. New underground and ground-level parking spaces are to be provided in the city centre. “Well-maintained greenery within squares, lanes and parks will fill all the space available in-between buildings. The investment potential of Olsztyn is mostly located in the extensively used buildings behind the street fronts. We want to redefine their functions, allowing a reconcilation between the recreational, leisure and parking needs of current residents with the needs of the users of the new functions,” explains Ewa Gadomska.

Historic buildings are the key

The modernisation plan also includes the use of historic buildings. “We appreciate the great significance of buildings of historic value buildings and so we are also considering a number of approaches aimed at their protection. A key element of the programme is to give Olsztyn’s old town a significant role in the new structure of the city centre. We are proposing a range of organisational and spatial solutions devised to prevent historic buildings from being isolated and to facilitate the development of services,” adds Ewa Gadomska. Olsztyn’s old town is to be brought into the circuit of the city centre through improvements to the public areas leading to it. At the same time, the city council also wants to reduce the car traffic in the town centre. According to the plan, the maximum speed limit in the area is to be reduced to 30 km/h. “This will enable us to better service the areas neighbouring the roads,” claims Ewa Gadomska. “The reduction of car traffic in cities is not a fashion or an urban planning trend but another stage in the transformation of urban areas. On the one hand, it is a way to create attractive ‘living space’, on the other it also helps to solve the problems resulting from the rapidly-growing number of cars in the city,” she says. Olsztyn is aiming to combine the modernisation of its city centre with the reconstruction and reactivation of its tram system, which will also be partly introduced in the city centre. “Furthermore, the construction of tram infrastructure pprovides an excellent excuse for reorganising and rearranging adjacent public areas,” claims Ewa Gadomska.

Long preparations

“When we were preparing analyses for the scheme three years ago, we needed to devise a measure that would allow us to comprehend the complexity of the area as well as its dynamics, to coordinate ongoing activities and shape the social consultation process, which in our opinion is necessary when you make changes to such a complicated and multi-faceted environment. This was when the idea for the scheme was born. We wanted to draw up a document that would outline all the aims, directions and activities necessary for reviving Olsztyn’s city centre and to prsent our vision for the city,” reveals Ewa Gadomska. “We care deeply about fully capitalising on the opportunities the city centre provides. We have to attract new residents and tourists and boost the city’s residential and commercial attractiveness, so that the economic growth of the city can be sustained and improved upon,” she added.