Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prestigious development fears oblivion

COPENHAGEN. It was the most prestigious urban development project in Scandinavia during the past decade.
Ørestad would become a showcase for modern city building with cutting-edge architecture, excellent public transportation and vast green fields surrounding this new face of Danish capital Copenhagen.
Then came the financial crisis, which left many buildings un-built. And on top of that, residents of Ørestad now fear that the city and the developers will leave them behind to focus on new, more exciting projects in other parts of the capital.
The Danish press is now talking of a “war between city districts” in Copenhagen.
Over the weekend, daily Berlingske Tidende ran a big piece on the worries in Ørestad. In an earlier report in this blog, I wrote about the critics who see Ørestad (right) as a failure with its desolate streets and empty lots.
Now residents in Ørestad, who paid big money for homes in what they thought would become the most exclusive part of Copenhagen, see signs that the future is moving elsewhere and that they will be left with their dark streets and empty lots.
Ørestad is divided into three parts. Ørestad North, closest to the city center, has a university complex, a celebrated new concert hall at the headquarters of Danish Radio, and residential buildings which gives life to its streets.
Ørestad City has some stunning residential buildings and the big convention center where the UN held its failed Climate Summit in December. It is dominated by the huge shopping center Field’s, which many blame for effectively killing all street life in the area.
The last part, Ørestad South, is where the problems become most obvious. Only a few buildings are under construction. Among them is the 8-house, a huge residential and office building designed by famous young Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG.
The building will be an attraction in itself when completed, but it is surrounded by empty lots and that isn’t likely to change in the near future.
Ørestad was planned for 20-25,000 residents, but there are only 5,500 living there today.
At the same time, the city is getting ready to build a number of new developments around Copenhagen. The most important of these is Nordhavnen, destined to be an environmentally friendly showcase eventually housing some 40,000 residents.
Copenhagen is growing, and everybody expects that growth to pick up considerable speed when the financial crisis is over.
But many residents now fear that the city will begin developing new districts, while leaving others half-finished.
“There are a colossal number of city development districts in Copenhagen. The question is if you shouldn’t give priority to finishing what already has been set in motion”, one architecture and urban planning professor tells Berlingske Tidende.
Former Copenhagen mayor Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, who now heads the CPH City & Port Development (jointly owned by the city and the Danish government), assures residents in Ørestad and elsewhere that they will not be left behind when Copenhagen continues to develop.
“When they a 100 years from now look back, I’m sure they’ll say that we did the right things”, says Jens Kramer Mikkelsen to the newspaper.
CPH City & Port Development is responsible for all big developments in the Danish capital.
Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, for many years a dominant figure in Copenhagen politics and development, sees Ørestad as a future Manhattan with a planned new sports arena as a Danish version of Madison Square Garden.
Looking at Ørestad today, it’s more like Central Park without the surrounding cityscape.

The 8-house will be an attraction in a desolate Ørestad.