Klara Geywitz on the future profitability of a downtown trading newspaper

Minister Geywitz, on March 1 this year. You took over the chairmanship of the Śródmieście Advisory Council operating since October 2020, putting the development of the city center in the first place. Why is this topic so important to you?
The center is like a showcase of the city. Inner cities are exceptional, unique and historically developed places with which we identify, where we experience community and live together. People used to meet there to shop at the market, go to the shoemaker, or, it seemed, centuries ago, to fix the ladders. These events brought people together. A social, political and cultural nucleus was formed. I want to go there again. We need places where we can meet neighbors, friends and acquaintances without spending a lot of money.

What do you think are the key insights you have gained from your exchanges in committee with representatives of trade, catering and real estate associations, municipal umbrella organizations, and other federal departments?
The first face-to-face meeting immediately showed me that it is a meeting place for people who understand the great social importance of bustling downtowns and city centers and want to preserve them through further development. Although very different interests meet here. Some people trade, others want to strengthen community centers and places of culture. Every downtown trade, as you call it, prepares the ground for other uses through its scope. The key word in expert circles is multifunctional downtown development or mixed use. It’s the opposite of a mall with the same shops over and over and nothing else. Next to the workshop there is a cafe, next to the music school there is an electronics shop etc.

“City centers cannot be just places of consumption and office closure hours. Then they go to waste, “you said in” Poczdame Latest News “. Instead, in line with your ministry’s strategy, the city center of tomorrow should be “multifunctional, resilient and cooperative”. What does this mean exactly?
It has to do with what has just been said. Above all, however, it also means allowing freedom. For me, in practice, this means that we need places where a family or a pensioner can have a coffee for 1.50 euro – in the city center. These can be, for example, municipal institutions with a mixed concept. Not everyone can afford meetings, as long as they always involve spending money. I want to develop this social aspect in the downtown debate. Incidentally, a thriving city center means not only ensuring retail survival, which is not easy in normal times, but also surviving crises, such as during a pandemic or adaptation to climate change. We also have to take this into account when planning inner-city cities.

So far, both the predominant structural use of plots in central areas and the TA noise guidelines argue against a stronger combination of functions in urban locations. How do you intend to provide more flexibility and how can you coordinate with the Ministry of the Environment, which is also responsible?
I found the 15 minute walk into the city exciting. This means that you live, work and perform your daily routine within a quarter of an hour. The idea behind this is, for example, to bring the workshops back to the city center. They make noise sometimes, it’s true, but for a long time cities were designed so that people had to live on huge access roads, but the car repair shop should be in an industrial zone. In order to refocus life, work and daily life in city centers in the future, we also need to get to TA Noise. We are already talking to the environmental protection department on this subject.

The sustainable city you are striving for should be a social space where functions overlap and new connections emerge – always with the aim of conserving resources. What role can retail, as a classic downtown function, play in reorganization, and with what other uses should it be related?
“The city needs trade and the trade needs the city” – this rule will not change. If we empower life in our city centers, we need local suppliers and service providers at the same time. Tourists and visitors will continue to search for the shopping experience closely related to the gastronomic experience. However, I also believe that we should pay more attention to new business models that provide opportunities for the development of centers, such as the shared economy. If I know that I can find a repair service in the center, I will certainly be happy to visit a neighboring store. If my espresso machine gives back the ghost I’d like to have it repaired on site and I don’t need to ship it or throw it away. After all, this mix is ​​a win-win situation. However, there is no mixed use panacea in the city center. Downtown, A and B locations, neighborhood centers or city centers, large, medium or small cities – conditions, requirements and resources are very location specific.

In addition to a digitization fund of € 100 million and a special depreciation of investments in city centers, the German Trade Association is also calling for a special downtown development program with at least € 500 million per year over a five-year period. How do you feel about it – and have you already discussed it with Finance Minister Lindner?
Municipalities face major challenges. However, with federal financial aid to finance urban development, in particular the Living Centers program, the Inner City Strategy developed by the Inner City Advisory Council, and the federal € 250 million Sustainable Downtown and Centers program, the federal government can help municipalities overcome these challenges. Strengthening city centers has always been an important goal of financing city development: more than 60 percent of federal financial aid flows into city centers and city centers. If you add areas near the city center, the figure is over 80 percent. Based on the previous annual federal financial aid of 790 million euros, centers, including the local area, receive more than 500 million euros annually. If you add funds from the federal states and municipalities, this is almost EUR 1.9 billion a year.

With the federal program Sustainable Cities and Centers, the BMWSB has launched a new initiative to promote resilience and crisis management in cities and communities with funding of € 250 million. Will it remain a one-off or will more than 238 municipalities participating so far benefit in the future?
First of all, I was very pleased with the great interest of the local community in this program. Increasing the resilience of cities and communities will remain an important goal in the future and will become even more important. We have fully funded the program and now want to evaluate the different approaches. We closely involve politicians from the Bundestag’s construction and budget committees and then decide how to proceed.

The congress you initiated against desertification of the downtown will take place on July 7 in Potsdam. What impetus should the event give and what role does the strategy of the City Center Consulting Council play?
It’s a simple rule: you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. What commune A is doing well, commune B may take a slightly different form. This congress should also be a space for exchange and creative ideas. Where does the shoe hurt the most? What can be done even better? For this you need to meet in attendance, for a decent coffee or tea. We want to connect people who should connect people. It was also behind the name of the program “Sustainable city centers and centers”.

Urban regeneration is a long and costly process involving many local stakeholders. What do you think you will achieve for German city centers by the end of the term?
The development of cities is primarily the task of local authorities within the framework of constitutionally guaranteed local government. However, the federal government can partner with states in framing, funding, and sharing knowledge. The challenges facing our inner cities and centers today are enormous. What Helps: There are certainly few areas of society where everyone involved is consensual. Our inner cities and centers should remain friendly and attractive. They are the living laboratories of our society. If we continue to work together in this spirit and undertake tasks together, I am convinced that we can make significant progress in the years to come.

Klara Geywitz

Born in Potsdam in 1976, she has been the Federal Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Construction in the office of Olaf Scholz since December 2021. After studying political science, the Social Democrat was in 2004-2019 a directly elected deputy to the parliament of the federal state of Brandenburg. In 2008, she was elected vice-president, and in 2013, secretary general of SPD Brandenburg. After running for the presidency of the SPD along with Olaf Scholz, Geywitz became the deputy chairman of the federal SPD in 2019. From 2020 until her appointment as minister, Geywitz worked as Audit Area Manager at the Brandenburg State Audit Office

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