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Downtown Höchst Support Program

Revitalization of downtown Höchst as a residential and business district

Topic:
Urban revitalization, Commerce
District: Local district:
6
Size of area:
area covered by the master plan about 57 ha
Project management:

Ms. Anne Lederer
Telefon: +49 (0)69 212 34403
Telefax: +49 (0)69 212 30731


Project description

Reason for planning
Many people still know the district of Höchst on account of the industrial park on the site of the former Hoechst AG company. Yet Höchst has much more to offer! It has a vibrant old town that boasts Frankfurt’s largest self-contained set of half-timbered structures; these old houses have been protected by a preservation order since 1972. Höchst was a town in its own right until 1928; if you stand on the banks of the River Main what you see is a marvelous historical ensemble consisting of the castle, town wall, the Church of St. Justinus and Bolongaro Palace. For various reasons, Höchst is suffering from dwindling significance, however; this has also spelled a decline in its economic fortunes. Factors that have played a role here are competition from the expanding Main-Taunus-Zentrum shopping mall, the fact that the local authority headquarters has relocated away from the city, and lastly that the main gate to the industrial park has been moved further southward. Yet Höchst offers excellent qualities as a residential and business location which needs to be preserved and expanded in line with the thrust current urban development.

For this reason, based on studies of the district’s structure, the masterplan identified the linkages, deficiencies and opportunities in Höchst. It served as the basis for the 10-year municipal Downtown Höchst Support Program, which the City of Frankfurt put in place in 2006. The City Council approved the support guidelines in 2008.

Development district
The area in question is bordered by Leunastrasse in the west, the River Main and the River Nidda in the south, Russingerstrasse and Bolongarostrasse in the east, and Ludwig Scriba Strasse and the railroad tracks in the north.

Planning objectives
The aim behind continuing the support program support is to strengthen the central function of downtown Höchst in the field of retailing, commerce and services while also augmenting the district’s quality as a housing and business. Quarter for broad sections of the populace.
Alongside its central function as a commercial hub, the following additional functions are key:
• Point of identification
• Cultural center
• Meeting place, center of integration and communication
• Mobility hub
• Place for housing, work, and leisure

Financial incentives for structural investment are intended to make ground-floor commercial premises more attractive, consolidate established facilities, and eliminate vacant premises. The investments will play a role in preserving invaluable urban fabric, enhancing the appearance of the properties, and strengthening the business environment.
In addition to subsidies for measures to redevelop commercially used ground-floor premises, support is also available for measures in the public space destined to strengthen the business environment and communal activities intended to improve the image of downtown Höchst.


Project progress
With the resolution passed by the City Council in 2000 the city executive was commissioned to update the 1990 masterplan, as the problems it highlighted back then have not lessened since. As the basis of this planning, a district transport plan and a parking management concept were drawn up. The City Council approved the 2006 masterplan, when it also passed a EUR 21 million support program for the area defined in the masterplan, with which housing construction and modernization measures were to be financed. To this end support guidelines were drawn up in 2007 and passed in February 2008.

Between 2008 and 2018 those private individuals intending to build were advised by the appointed architect, Ms. Lotte Plechatsch. All in all, advice was provided to the owners of some 400 properties. This led to 281 approvals for a total sum released of about Euros 9.3 million.

Between 2008 and 2011 the City of Frankfurt, with the district of Höchst, took part in the EU’s MANDIE 2008 – 2011 project, which aimed to support and reactivate district centers.

From April 2012 until July 2017, Nassauische Heimstätte Wohnungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft GmbH was commissioned to oversee the project as district manager through its NH ProjektStadt brand. The key focus here is to develop a multi-purpose district center, the areas that needed to be addressed being basic amenities, housing, work, community life, culture, and leisure facilities.

Though the support provided for building measures was highly successful with regard to the preservation of invaluable urban fabric, downtown Höchst still suffers from structural deficiencies. On the basis of an evaluation, the decision was therefore taken to to prolong the support program for a further five years and make subsidies worth 10 million euros available again. The “Guidelines on the Support of the Redevelopment of Commercial Ground-floor Premises and the Enhancement of the Business Environment in Downtown Höchst” have been in force since June 21, 2018.

Following a pan-European tender process, NH ProjektStadt and the firm ammon + sturm were awarded the contract to conduct the district management and provide advice with regard to the modernization of downtown Höchst. The core project team, comprising Dr. Jürgen Schmitt and Jenny Nussbaum from NH, and Frank Ammon from ammon + sturm, can be contacted for advice in the neighborhood drop-in center at Bolongarostraße 135 at fixed times.



Information on the project published by the City Planning Department


More information

District management and modernization advisory teams

The downtown Höchst neighborhood office serves as the center for local activities aimed at strengthening the location. 
All the liaison and advisory services provided by the district management and modernization advisory teams are free of charge and open to everyone.


Höchst neighborhood office, © Nassauische Heimstätte

The brief for the ProjectCity’s district management team is, as a “district agency”, to bring together spaces, people, and ideas. In particular, this includes the following aspects:


“District agency” for the use of ground floor premises
Management of vacant and commercial premises
Help for property owners to find tenants
Help with the search for premises for those interested in relocating to the district
Organization of interim uses for temporary vacancies
Profiling/branding
Handles activities aimed at image improvement
Motivates property owners and businesspeople to engage in joint activities
Networks social activities
Acts as contact for the subsidy of communal activities
Dialog and participation
Local presence and surgery in the neighborhood office
Function as an “ideas exchange”
Close collaboration with local players
Participation, presentation, and conflict management


The Höchst project team, from left to right: Dr. Jürgen Schmitt (ProjectCity), Anne Lederer (City Planning Department), Frank Ammon (ammon + sturm), Jenny Nussbaum (ProjectCity), © Nassauische Heimstätte

The brief for the modernization advisory team is to advise property owners and businesspeople personally with regard to making structural alterations to and enhancing commercially-used ground floor premises. This includes the following:
 

  • Advice with regard to identifiable structural and design potentials and shortcomings in existing buildings (use, layout, access, construction, condition and design of the facade).
  • Advice with regard to structural alterations aimed at improving the property’s function as commercially used space and improving accessibility.
  • Advice with regard to measures aimed at improving the private and public environment or at care of the cityscape.
  • In individual cases evaluation and advice with regard to technical and design solutions for the  layout, materials, construction, details, accessibility, energy-related improvements.
  • Advice with regard to the planning, preservation and other approvals required and to the economic viability and plausibility of measures.
  • Help with and advice on submitting applications for construction subsidies in line with the “Downtown Höchst” or other support programs.

Support by grants

On the basis of the guidelines to promote the redesign of commercial ground floor areas and to upgrade the business environment in downtown Hoechst, grants can be made to private and public applicants.

Measures for existing buildings

The central element of the Downtown Höchst Support Program is to provide grants for measures to redesign commercially used ground-floor properties. Financial incentives for investments are destined to help ground-floor commercial spaces become more appealing, shore up existing usages, and eliminate vacancies. Conversion and extension measures to modernize and upgrade commercial ground-floor properties including the establishment of operations that strengthen the central function of downtown Höchst are eligible for support. Moreover, funding can be provided to assist in the restoration of the frontage of ground-floor commercial properties, including measures to restore, replace or remove ground-floor commercial frontage with a view to enhancing the look of the streets – and this also extends to advertising infrastructure.

Grants have already been forthcoming or prepared for various measures. For example, support in meeting the conversion and modernization costs has been provided for the relocation of the Stage & Musical Academy Frankfurt to Königsteiner Strasse 17.

Measures in the public space

Measures in public downtown space are eligible for support if they serve to enhance the business environment. A distinction is made here between measures for surface areas (e.g., greening a space) and street furniture (e.g., planters).

The “Summer Campaign Area” on the Main riverside received a grant (for further information click “Other current projects”).

Joint community activities

In addition to building measures and measures in the public space, grants can also be provided for joint community activities. The organization and realization of events and measures by private and public initiators that contribute to improving downtown Höchst’s image are eligible for such support.

To date, funding has been granted, among others, for the Digital Vacancy Exchange (for further information click “Current projects”), the Christmas illuminations on Dalbergkreisel, Dalbergstrasse and Hostatostrasse as well as the Spring Creative Tour.


Integrated action plan

In a dialogue-based process the district management team will draw up an integrated action plan containing, in addition to an analysis of the overall problem, a development guideline and a package of measures with cost and financing planning for the support period.
With a view to brainstorming and defining objectives, on August 24, 2019 an open district workshop was held in the education and cultural center (BiKuZ) in Höchst. The main issue was: “How can we, together, develop downtown Höchst as a place that functions as a vibrant center for all of us?”. Following an introduction by the City Planning Department, the opportunities and weaknesses, as well as the development opportunities were explained from the point of the view of the ProjectCity district management team and the ammon+sturm modernization advisory team. Subsequently, all those attending had a chance to put an idea or issue forward for discussion in the “concerns marketplace”. Property owners, residents, and representatives of various associations and institutions then discussed the ideas and issues in a lively, communicative, and constructive manner.

Based on the ideas submitted at the district workshop in summer 2019, a suite of measures was developed which the City Planning Department and the district management and modernization advisory teams presented on January 23, 2020 at another citizens’ event that was open to the public.


Citizens’ event in Höchst, January 23, 2019 (1) © City of Frankfurt Planning Department

Based on the ideas submitted at the district workshop in summer 2019, a suite of measures was developed which the City Planning Department and the district management and modernization advisory teams presented on January 23, 2020 at another citizens’ event that was open to the public.


Citizens’ event in Höchst, January 23, 2019 (2) © City of Frankfurt Planning Department

Following the presentation of the set of measures, participants had an opportunity to discuss the results with the project team at various project displays. Alongside displays devoted to the modernization of existing buildings, the public domain and mobility, location, identification, the local community, and involvement, the working groups also had a chance to present their activities and ideas. In the wake of the district workshop, a total of four working groups were set up to address the following issues: enhancement of the market / market square / market hall; urban gardening; garbage and cleanliness; and bicycle traffic.


Facade guideline

The modernization advisory team will draw up a guideline with regard to the subsidy of enhancement measures for the ground-floor frontage of commercial premises.
Using existing buildings in Höchst, the guideline will outline which alteration work is suitable for enhancing the shop fronts.
With the overall situation having been assessed, priorities for Höchst were defined (existing good examples, continuity across the entire frontage, display windows, facade material / change of material, facade color, awnings / extensions / cladding, advertising displays) and subsequently, on the basis of at least one existing shop front in Höchst, one or two “photorealistic” renderings prepared for each priority.
The possibilities outlined in the refurbished facades are based on existing examples and present in as graphic a manner as possible cases of enhancement that can practically be implemented.
The refurbishments serve as the basis of a workshop in October, to which all building owners and operators of commercial ground-floor facilities are invited. Using the exemplary images prepared, suitable enhancement strategies will be discussed and a guideline for facade design drawn up.
The guideline will be published in an illustrated brochure and serve as a graphic aid with regard to advice on the support program.



Current projects

Digital Commercial Vacancies Exchange

The district management office had already developed a digital commercial vacancies exchange. The instrument simplifies vacancy and commercial property management and is attractive in particular for the users. The Commercial Vacancies Exchange enables people seeking properties to immediately see on an interactive map whether there are suitable commercial spaces available in Höchst. They can then contact the owners directly or through the district management office. Owners can, in turn, enter their properties for lease on the platform and thus attract potential tenants more easily. Moreover, general inquiries by interested parties can be processed through the exchange. Indeed, it also offers information on possible grants for private investments in the framework of the Downtown Hoechst Support Program. The Digital Commercial Vacancies Exchange if a joint project of the non-profit Pro Höchst e.V. and the district management office; funding stems from grants for joint communal activities as per the relevant guideline. The exchange is hosted on the existing Pro Höchst Website: https://www.pro-hoechst.de/gewerbeflaechen/.

 

Feasibility study Königsteiner Strasse (incl. Mainberg)

Königsteiner Strasse requires a new lease of life in order to strengthen its function as downtown Höchst’s key high street and as a place where people meet and greet. This new lease of life can only be successful if it brings onboard property owners and businesspeople as well as the Höchst public. As part of the Support Program defining this new lease of life and a dialog-based planning process will both be initiated and dedicated to exploring the potential for a makeover of Königsteiner Strasse. As a first step, at the end of 2019 a feasibility study was commissioned that is intended initially to analyze the status quo. Following on from the analysis, a concept will be devised covering possible measures. The idea will be to indicate both measures that can be realized in the short term and with little effort as well as measures for a comprehensive and long-term makeover. The findings will then serve as the basis for further public discussion on Königsteiner Strasse.

The analysis of the status quo has largely been completed. However, the surveys of car, pedestrian and cycle traffic on Königsteiner Strasse and via Königsteiner Strasse have not been completed. Given the restrictions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, at present no representative surveys can be conducted. The plan is to conduct the survey in autumn 2020, the results of the study should be available as the basis of a public discussion by the end of 2020.


Sponsored mobile benches: © Nassauische Heimstätte, photo: Stefan Krutsch

Mobile benches for downtown Höchst

There are fierce discussions in many districts and quarters about seating in public spaces. A lack of outdoor benches, for example, deprives precisely families with small children or senior citizens of an opportunity to tarry a while when shopping or out for a walk. If there are benches, they often also get used at night and there’s then the danger that they develop into a meeting point for people stirring up trouble. Corresponding conflicts have arisen with regard to the benches on Königsteiner Strasse and in neighboring shopping streets such as Hostatostrasse. As the result of structured conflict moderation, in which, among others, Höchst’s senior citizens’ initiative, local inhabitants and shop owners participated, in addition to the “colorful benches” installed back in 2017 an agreement was reached to install mobile benches as an additional service. These mobile benches are destined to enable visitors to Königsteiner Strasse to relax during daytime but cannot be used at nighttime. The idea arose during a workshop of having businesses in the shopping streets in Höchst act as sponsors of the benches. During the day, the businesses thus place the benches outside their stores for anyone to use and when the respective store closes place the benches back inside the store safe and sound until the next day. Downtown Höchst was able to benefit from the local creative industry when it came to developing the benches. Design and furniture studio keinStil. In Höchst’s Kranengasse had already collated ideas for a mobile bench. These were then developed into the “urban-k” prototype. The bench can be moved as if it were a wheelbarrow, which enables it to be put in place swiftly and flexibly. At night, it can be stored in a store without taking up much space. At the same time, the bench can be used by its sponsors for advertising.

On May 29, 2020 the first three mobile benches were put in place outside a hairdresser’s and a computer store on Königsteiner Strasse as well as in front of a flower shop in Hostatostrasse. A further mobile bench is to be found outside the District Management Office at Bolongarostrasse 135. Other sponsors are being solicited among the business in downtown Höchst.


Construction fence on Ettinghausenplatz, © Nassauische Heimstätte

Supporting the redesign of Ettinghausenplatz

There are plans to redesign Ettinghausenplatz. However, before the planning phase proper starts, an archaeological excavation needed to be conducted there as it is one of the places in Höchst with the richest of histories. In fact, until 1938 it was the site of the Höchst synagogue. The strategy is to hold a competition to develop ideas and concepts for the new square while factoring in the findings from the excavation.

Precisely given its history, Ettinghausenplatz is very important for many Höchst citizens. Given this context, local inhabitants were encouraged to shape the face of the construction fence that surrounded the square during the excavation work in order to highlight the archaeological work and the plaza’s history. The design of the construction fence is the result of the involvement of many local players. The “Working Group History & Remembrance. Initiative to Commemorate Victims of the Nazis” in Höchst made available the panels from the exhibitions “It happened in broad daylight”. “ffj Büro für Typografie und Gestaltung” devised a design for other sections of the construction fence that integrated information and images on the history of the square. On the southern side, small ‘spyholes’ were cut into the fence to offer anyone interested a view of the excavation work going on behind the fence.

Following the excavations, the area of Ettinghausenplatz will initially be given a temporary sealed surface. This will potentially enable projects to use the square in the interim. Moreover, the district management office will handle the communications side to the redesign planning process.


Further current projects

Riverside summer activities zone, © Nassauische Heimstätte

Riverside summer activities zone

Since its makeover, the northern bank of the Main River in Höchst’s old town has swiftly emerged as a central space in downtown Höchst. What had hitherto been lacking, however, was an area with a suitable surface and a high profile where smaller events and activities can be held. In this context, local initiatives and Höchst institutions from, among others Initiative Frankfurt West, Tanzschule Weber and the Director of the Höchst Administration, came up with the idea of a “summer activities zone” at the riverside.

The idea for the summer activities zone saw the light of day on the riverside between Ochsenturm and the playground: The City of Frankfurt Dept. of Planning shouldered the financing as part of the Downtown Höchst Support Program, the City of Frankfurt Dept. of Parks readied the zone, and the district management office coordinated the activities. On June 19, 2020 City Councilor Mike Josef officially declared the zone open for use by Höchst inhabitants. The zone is destined for classic summer activities that require solid ground beneath your feet, such as dances, sports and the like. In future, the zone can be used spontaneously be interested parties but can also be reserved for one-off or regular activities. To this end, an activities schedule has now been posted on the Pro Höchst Website: https://www.pro-hoechst.de/hoechst-aktiv/hoechst-freizeitbewusst/


Display and information box, © Nassauische Heimstätte

Display case on activities in the district

Locals suggested that a display or information case be erected as a measure to communicate local activities as part of the dialog-based planning process. The idea was to erect it in as central a location as possible downtown.
An agreement was then reached with the City of Frankfurt Dept. of Road Construction and Development that to this end the district management office take over managing the four glass display cases that are located on stele at the beginning and end of Königsteiner Strasse. The display cases will in future be made available to all clubs, initiatives, and other non-profit players such that they can post event or program announcements or other information in the cases. Use is free of charge and will be coordinated by the district management office.


Working parties

In the wake of the District Workshop 2019 four working parties were formed that will have committed to concern themselves with specific topics relating to downtown Höchst on an ongoing basis.

The “Upgrading the Market / Marktplatz / Market Hall” working party discusses ideas to expand the range of market offerings, to better market the market, to re-organize traffic on market days (access, parking) and to enhance the face of Marktplatz. The working party is unanimous that the starting point of all efforts is the fact that the market offers Höchst great potential and the existing offerings need to be maintained.

The “Urban Gardeners” working party sets out to get more greenery in the streets and squares in Höchst, firmly in line with promoting climate-adjusted urban development. Moreover, the working party prioritizes creating green spaces that boast high biodiversity (e.g., are bee-friendly) and where people like to spend time. The Höchst working party wants to lock the various gardening activities of locals into things and also involve social care and education facilities in the vicinity as plant patrons. The first project is to be realized at the Höchst marketplace.

Some time ago, Bürgervereinigung Altstadt put the topic of “Garbage and a clean town” on its agenda and also actively advocated on the issue in the district workshop and at other events. The group focuses on illegal dumping of bulky waste or garbage in the park zones as well as the current waste disposal organization and searches for solutions together with the specialist municipal departments.

The working party on “Bicycle Traffic” seeks to improve the situation for cyclists in Höchst and make things safer. Höchst, so the plan, will become a district where people like to cycle and do so often, and which can easily be reached by bicycle. The working party has thus addressed various topics, such as the safety of cycle paths, the procurement of a load bike for Höchst, and discussions on local and regional planning from the viewpoint of cyclists.