Thursday, March 28, 2013

A study trip to Hamburg

One of my roles at my current job at Stipo is organizing study trips. This was a different kind of study trip because it was only open to certain people who are interested in taking part of a new initiative in the Netherlands dealing with Neighborhood Improvement Districts. NIDs have not been widely used, but their big brother Business Improvement Districts, certainly have. Hamburg was one of the first European cities (actually, city-state) that implemented BIDs in the early 90s. In the early 2000s they expanded the BID model (for the first time in Europe) to a neighborhood, Steilshoop. Thus a NID.

About 25 professionals headed to Hamburg to see this NID in-person, and talk to the people behind its vision. We arrived at Steilshoop neighborhood around 2:30, had a short tour and an hour presentation by the project manager.

The general idea of a BID is to raise a chuck of change, from the businesses on a designated street, evaluate what is needed to enhance the street, and implement those physical changes. Hopefully these changes bring more people to the street and more people equals more money. Translating this idea to a 'test' neighborhood is tricky. They raise money from the residents, evaluate, and then implement. The very first NID has finally been passed by the senate, the funds have been raised (lots of money), and designs are underway. It's taken about 7 years to do this part.

After the tour, we headed to the city center of Hamburg for a second tour--of the BIDs. My first impressions of the center was that the city was very wealthy. Each BID street was fancier than the previous. This was uber high-end shopping (and living). Our tour guide was from the Chamber of Commerce and gave us a tour of the Chamber as well. Gorgeous building.

Straight after the tour (take note it was about -5ºC/23ºF with the wind), everyone was ready for dinner and a beer. I made our reservation at what turned out to be a very nice restaurant called Deichgraf. Hamburg is known for its seafood, and the chef proved that well.

The next morning, I'd arranged a tour for us at HafenCity--the new city adjacent to Hamburg--basically, an enormous redevelopment project of the harbor at Hamburg. I wrote a case study of their approach to planning the city at the eye level in our book. They use an innovative strategy for development and strict design guidelines for architects and developers. It was fantastic to see it all in person, finally.

After a quick lunch, we were all back on the bus heading back to Utrecht. We watched a very silly Rotterdam-based movie called De Marathon--hilarious!

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