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Fig. 1. They are planning massive investments in public infrastructure: Mayor of Essen Thomas Kufen (right), Markus Masuth, CEO of RAG Montan Immobilien (left), Mayor of Bottrop Bernd Tischler in the area of the “Freiheit Emscher” decade project. Photo: Ralf Schultheiß/RDN

The „Freiheit Emscher“ decade project takes shape

The “Freiheit Emscher” decade project takes shape. What started out three years ago as an “intermunicipal development plan” will give the Ruhr metropolitan area fresh impetus as the largest urban development project in the Ruhr region. By 2030 the cities of Essen and Bottrop together with RAG Montan Immobilien GmbH, Essen/Germany, want to trigger public and private investments of over 1.3 bn € (Figure 2).

Following the successful completion of the feasibility study, the partners presented the structural and utilisation concept at the real estate fair EXPO REAL in Munich, as well as a plan of measures for the coming decade, with which the 1,700 ha area is to be redeveloped. “Where the cities of Essen and Bottrop have turned their backs, we want to create a central and vital business location with high job density”, stated the Mayor of Essen Thomas Kufen. The focus is on the creation of green and blue infrastructure: “We see “Freiheit Emscher” as a major driver of the climate-related transformation of the Ruhr region”, adds Markus Masuth, Chairman of the Board of RAG Montan Immobilien.

“Massive investments in public infrastructure will make possible a fundamental new development of the area, which for decades was shaped by mining and scarcely developed”, stated Bernd Tischler, Mayor of Bottrop, at the end of 2018 when the last coal mine in the Ruhr region was closed. The infrastructure masterplan for the “Freiheit Emscher” project plans investments of 275 M € by 2030. The majority of the measures are to be financed from regional, national and EU public funds, as well as Emschergenossenschaft and Deutsche Bahn. “We are convinced that these advance payments from the public sector will trigger a development boost for the area”, stated Mayor Thomas Kufen.

The “Freiheit Emscher” decade project aims for a fundamental restructuring and redevelopment of the area to the north of Essen and south of Bottrop. Investments shall be made in superior road networks, bridges or underpasses, motorway junctions at A42 and A52, drainage measures, as well as a future-oriented open-space and mobility concept. Furthermore, the project planners expect that the infrastructure measures planned by 2030 to the value of 275 M € will trigger private investments (x 3.7). “Only with this ambitious plan of measures is the path paved for private follow-on investments of over 1 bn €. This is our rule of thumb from other projects”, said Masuth.

Five potential areas previously used for mining totalling 150 ha altogether form the heart of the project. They are to be gradually removed from mining supervision from 2020 until presumably 2026. RAG and RAG Montan Immobilien will invest a total of around 100 M € for the site remediation within the framework of the closure plan, as well as the new development and clearance operations of these areas, said Masuth. The remediation work at the Emil-Emscher area already started during the summer.

As the biggest urban development project in the Ruhr region, “Freiheit Emscher” is to also serve as a model with climate protection measures and climate-adapted planning: “We are developing this area consistent with economy, environment and climate objectives”, explained Tischler. The concept for rainwater management i. e. plans open waterways, which will ensure an optimised city climate in the “Freiheit Emscher”. The mobility concept aims at the intelligent combination of commercial traffic and the preference for emission-free vehicles and the public transport network on a new environmentally friendly route between the city centres of Bottrop and Essen.

The open-space concept plans supplementing the existing green spaces and an abundance of new routes to and on water– geared towards the nucleus as an attraction anchor between canal and restored Emscher. New parks, squares and a promenade along the canal will create a high quality of stay in conjunction with gastronomy and leisure and recreational offers. “With the nucleus we want to not only offer start-ups and knowledge-based companies an optimal environment for working, but also create a new urban center, which links people from the surrounding districts to the area emotionally,” said Tischler. “We are convinced: This will be a pretty chunk of the Ruhr region.” (RAG MI/Si.)