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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:
Rahmenplangebiet rund 57 ha
Project management:

Ms. Anne Lederer
Telefon: +49 (0)69 212 34403
Telefax: +49 (0)69 212 30761


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 support program aims to enhance the quality of downtown Höchst as a residential area and business center for large sections of the population.

There is a focus on private construction projects in downtown Höchst. Incentives to invest in buildings are intended to help preserve the invaluable urban fabric and the appearance of the district. Initiatives to modernize and refurbish existing buildings and create new residential space are, on balance, subsidized to the tune of 30 percent the eligible costs. Initiatives seeking to improve living conditions in the district can receive subsidies of up to 80 percent of the eligible costs.

Key factors for the future are PR work and fostering a prime image for the district. Numerous events such as the “Design Parcours” are held regularly and help give all Frankfurt citizens a clear idea of the district of Höchst. Further focal points of the activities of the district management include structural development and consulting services for the real estate sector (vacancy management), stakeholder support and integration as well as networking all involved, strengthening retailing, in particular on Königsteiner Strasse, Bolongarostrasse, Hostatostrasse and Dalbergstrasse, as well as making the district more attractive for tourism and culture.

The Downtown Höchst Support Program also finances projects in urban space – including the redesign of Bolongarostrasse and the restoration of the “Stadtpark”.

Project progress
With the resolution passed by the City Council in 2000 the municipal authorities were commissioned to update the 1990 masterplan, as the problems it highlighted back then have actually not lessened since. Accordingly, a district transport plan and a parking management concept have been compiled and form the basis for planning in this regard. The City Council approved the masterplan in 2006, when they likewise resolved a 21-million-euro support program for the masterplanning, with which new housing and modernization measures were to be financed. To this end support guidelines were drawn up in 2007 and passed in February, 2008.

Since 2008, those planning to build locally have been able to seek advice from the appointed architect, Ms. Lotte Plechatsch, in the neighborhood drop-in center at Bolongarostrasse 135.

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

On conclusion of the EU project, negotiations were conducted in accordance with the regulations governing the award of freelance contracts (VOF) and a contract for the management of the quarter put out to tender and duly awarded. In April 2012 Nassauische Heimstätte Wohnungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft GmbH was commissioned to oversee the project as district manager through its NH ProjektStadt brand. The key focus of this undertaking is to develop a mixed-use district center, the areas that need to be addressed being basic amenities, housing, work, community life, culture, and leisure facilities.

The support provided for building initiatives has been very successful in helping preserve valuable sections of the urban fabric, yet downtown Höchst still suffers from structural deficiencies. NH’s duties include the on-going implementation and organization of initiatives and projects; the development of new initiatives and projects, the inclusion of ideas and wishes submitted by citizens, stakeholders, and local businesses. The district management team intends to uncover shortcomings and the potentials (vacancies, inadequately used premises, dilapidated load-bearing structures, key premises etc.), and by means of pertinent advice and coordination, put the relevant real estate to favorable use.

Since the project began, the Planning Advisory Council has in particular supported the public measures in the district, and advises the municipal authorities and the officials involved. The council consists of stakeholders from the district, as well as political representatives and members of local associations.
 


Neighborhood offices



Information on the project published by the City Planning Department


More informations

Communications

Public relations and image formation

Interstate signposting, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

Creating a positive image for the district of Höchst is a key objective. However, the aim here is not to pursue individual strategies on a sector-by-sector basis, but to forge and network synergies for the best possible development of the district. Since the start of the support program various projects have been launched and district initiatives promoted. Projects completed in recent years include, for example, a city guide app featuring 15 locations and interstate signposting informing drivers that Höchst is a historic town (“Altstadt Höchst”).


Höchst Boys and Girls campaign, © Idee: Reichert Medien Consultants, Fotografie: Thomas Balzer

Early 2014 saw the start of the “Höchster Buben / Höchster Mädels” (Höchst boys / girls) campaign, which involved large posters of two or three boys and girls from Höchst promoting the district and advertising its typical look-and-feel. Initially, the posters were displayed in a number of stores and vacant premises in the district before they moved to various exhibition venues, including some outside the district. Now they are on permanent display in the Höchst medical center.


1st prize in the "Greetings from Höchst" postcard competition - höchst*schön, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

A postcard competition themed  “Greetings from Höchst” was held from June to mid-September 2014. Postcards could be entered digitally or digitized in mobile pop-up studios positioned in various locations in Höchst and boasting all the necessary technical equipment. After the jury had selected the top three winners out of more than 100 entries, a vernissage and subsequent exhibition was held at the Höchster Volksbank.

Another strategy that is expected to create a positive public image is ongoing and wide-ranging coverage on events and particularities in Höchst, above all the Design Parcours and the Route of Half-Timbered Houses (“Route der Fachwerkstrasse”).


Consultative Planning Council

The Höchst Consultative Planning Council is consulted regularly in an advisory capacity in relation to the implementation of the support program.

In particular, the Consultative Planning Council supports public action in the district and advises the municipal authorities and their representatives. It is made up of various district stakeholders as well as politicians and association representatives.

 


Advisory services for property modernization

Measures: Construction of a new apartment building in line with zero-energy standards, © Foto: Plechatsch

From 2008 until mid-2018 some 400 property owners used the advisory service. The result: 281 applications for modernization were approved amounting to a total of approx. 9.3 million euros. Some measures are still being implemented. Thru the end of 2018, advisory services will be provided by the appointed architect Ms. Lotte Plechatsch in the neighborhood drop-in center at Bolongarostrasse 135 in Höchst.


Königsteiner Strasse 12, © Foto: Plechatsch

All measures aimed at modernizing and revitalizing existing buildings, creating extra residential space such as extensions or conversions, and enhancing the residential quality of life on private grounds (for example by removing sealed surfaces and greening unbuilt areas) are eligible for funding. On average, subsidies amount to 30 percent of the respective total, and in the case of improvements made to the living environment, 80 percent of the eligible costs. Funding is based on a concept agreed with the City that placed a special focus on monument protection, preservation of the cityscape, and climate protection. Work could not commence before the application had been filed; the minimum investment was 10,000 euros per property. After completion of the work the rent that is customary in a given location (established on the basis of the valid rent level of the City of Frankfurt) had to be maintained as the top rent.



Real estate consulting / building development

Bolongarostrasse 88, Weinkellerei Höchst, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

In Höchst, a number of properties have been identified that will play a central role in the development of the district.

While modernization is destined to improve the quality of existing buildings, real estate consulting services focus on advanced development efforts devoted to high-profile properties. Individual consultation sessions will help owners of such key properties identify new usage options. It is vital that vacancies and undesired usages are avoided especially as regards those key properties.

The site of the erstwhile iron foundry between Bolongarostrasse and Ludwig Scriba Strasse plays a crucial role in masterplanning the cityscape. With the assistance of MANDIE district management, following the departure of the ARO company in mid-2011, the premises were successfully let to the Höchst winery, a local business with more than 10 staff.


Given Höchst’s urban structure means that the majority of building development takes place in the existing urban fabric. There are no large brownfields, abandoned industrial areas or the like that offer potential for new builds, illustrating the necessity for an individual approach. Consequently, the idea is for the district management to contact property owners and illustrate feasible developments that are potentially linked with the downtown Höchst support program. Last year, the property owners contacted tended to be cautious in their feedback and willingness to cooperate, however.

Another focus is on the taverns belonging to the former Binding brewery, which are dotted all over downtown Höchst. KEG property development succeeded in purchasing those on Melchiorstrasse 10 and on Bolongarostrasse 156 (Goldener Adler).

At present the high number of entertainment outlets and taverns with gaming machines are posing particular difficulties. These offerings are highly frequented in particular on Bolongarostrasse, but also on Dalbergplatz and Königsteiner Strasse, which impacts adversely on the surroundings. Efforts have been made to demonstrate alternatives to property owners in one-on-one discussions. Should there be no demand for retail premises the location in question will need to be reclassified, a process that has to be part-driven by the owners. Possible strategies include the transformation into offices and doctor’s premises as well as residential space.

Having made amendments to development plan SW 6c no. 1Ä (effective as of November 29, 2011) and development plan no. 883, the Frankfurt City Planning Department played a role in safeguarding the established mixed-use quarter with its focus on residential space or resident-friendly commercial and service outlets against disruptive industries. In particular an effort has been made in usage zoning to ensure that businesses such as amusement arcades, betting shops and the like are excluded from opening in downtown Höchst.


Initiatives in the public space

In recent years several measures were identified and brought to attention in conjunction with the Downtown Höchst Support Program. Some of these are currently on the drawing board or being implemented while others have been completed.

The following building initiatives have already been realized: Andreasplatz square now structures the public space in the eastern section of the development area, while the “Telescopes into the Past” installation makes the Höchst’s synagogue on Ettinghausenplatz square visible, not to forget the new playground in Luciuspark.

In addition, financing has been secured for the restoration of the timber structure of the fountain on Höchster Schlossplatz square and the renewal of the cover over Brüningbrunnen well.

The music bunker on Leunastrasse received a makeover by an international artists’ group from England, the Netherlands and Germany, who embellished it with graffiti, transforming it into a real eye-catcher.

The Leuna bunker, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

The demolition of the erstwhile Süwag headquarters on Brüningstrasse was financed through the support program. The newly gained real estate served to extend the adjacent Brüningpark and restore the view of the River Main from downtown.

Unbuilt area following the demolition of the Süwag building, © Stadtplanungsamt Stadt Frankfurt am Main

The illumination of the Main embankment and castle in Höchst was implemented in 2013-4 and the new lights included in the 2014 Luminale festival. The result is a striking night-time silhouette of downtown Höchst on the riverbank. Part of the ensemble is a display of Justinuskirche, which being Frankfurt’s oldest church exudes a special significance as a cultural heritage landmark.

Moreover, subsidies have been made available to finance part of the municipal share in the planning costs for the forthcoming refurbishment of the station building.

Bolongarostrasse linking the district’s west and east forms the backbone and bedrock of downtown Höchst. Given its importance there are plans to give Bolongarostrasse a facelift and transform it into an attractive boulevard. The plans have already been presented to the planning council and the local consultative council.

Outside the confines of downtown proper, Höchst municipal park was given a complete makeover. The aim was to create a stronger awareness of the status of this historical city park among residents.


Retail, the trades and service providers

Höchst is a retail location. According to the City of Frankfurt’s center concept, last updated in 2011, downtown Höchst has been classified as a B center or district center. It is linked to the public transport network and can be accessed by train or bus.

The downtown Höchst retail location is at present undergoing a structural transformation typical of all districts in Frankfurt/Main: The number of owner-managed specialist stores is in decline. In downtown Höchst, these stores are not necessarily being replaced by retail chains; rather the premises become vacant or start to accommodate a wide range of retailers on the ground floor, which impacts negatively on the surrounding businesses.

With a view to strengthening downtown Höchst as a business hub, on the basis of the support guidelines approved on June 21, 2018 applications can now be submitted for the redevelopment of ground-floor business premises and the modernization of facades on the ground-floor zone. Furthermore, measures designed for the public space and joint activities for image improvement are eligible for funding.


Höchster Designparcours

Design Parcours December 2013, © Foto: NH ProjektStadt

The phenomenon of increasing vacancies is apparent in many cities and districts. The questions that each city needs to ask itself time and again is how such vacancies can be prevented and what options there are to do so. For several years now, one feasible approach is the interim use of vacant buildings and premises. This concept allows those from the cultural and creative professions, such as designers, photographers, artists etc. to use vacant premises for their activities for a limited period of time.

One step to combat vacancies and to assign a new use to a location was the “Höchster Designparcours”, which was held for the first time on the first weekend in December 2012. It was intended as an individual opportunity for creative minds to unfold their potential and their ideas in vacant store premises and thus be able to present themselves to a broad audience. The aim here is to convince the owners of the advantages offered by the concept of interim use and potentially realize the one or other creative business idea on the premises. Over the course of several days, the artists and designers not only use the store windows but indeed the entire vacant premises to display the fruits of their labors. The Designparcours takes place once every summer and winter.


Seminar in display window design

Logo Fachwerk Triennale 2015, © Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutsche Fachwerkstädte e.V.

Generating more turnover with clear messages – this is the motto of a workshop for retailers in Höchst financed through the support program. The central question: What effect does my retail store, my display window have on passers-by?

The retailers from Höchst who participated were able to enjoy an interesting and informative event. The guest speaker was specialist consultant Alexandra Chrobak, who advises retailers nationwide on successful goods display with her company DURCHDACHT – Mehr Umsatz durch klare Aussagen (generating more turnover with clear messages). Rounding out the workshop were individual coaching sessions for interested retailers, which included examining the actual display windows and products for commercial effectiveness. The seminar was received with great interest.


Tourism, art and culture

All local stakeholders are in agreement that Höchst has extraordinary potential and that much of it is still waiting to be tapped. Culturally, with its theater (Neues Theater Höchst) and the cinema in the Bolongaropalast (Filmtheater Valentin) the district offers an exciting cultural spread that also attracts people from outside the city. From the point of view of cultural history, its charming old town, the castle square, the Old Castle and the New Castle, St. Justin’s Church, the Porcelain Museum at Kronberger Haus and the Bolongaro Palace make Höchst is a great attraction that is well worth a visit, a potential magnet for local visitors and tourists alike.


Tourism World Café / Tourism Working Panel

In an effort to transform Höchst into a real attraction, the focus was consciously placed on tourism in 2013. In January of that year, various stakeholders from local associations, committed citizens, representatives of the local authorities and officials active in tourism and leisure were invited to a kick-off event.


Route of Half-Timbered Buildings

As part of the working panel on tourism, the Tourismus + Congress gGmbH Frankfurt/Main took up the suggestions made in an effort to improve the old town and implemented them following the town’s successful application to be included in the Route der Deutschen Fachwerkstrasse (Route of Half-Timbered Buildings). The terms of admission and objectives were swiftly discussed and agreed with Prof. Manfred Gerner, who is the representative of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutsche Fachwerkstädte e.V. As a consequence, the district was able to use the opportunity to advertise its must-see spots in the “Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse” illustrated book, which was re-issued in 2013. Höchst is now a proud member of the Route of Half-Timbered Buildings which runs “From the Westerwald forest to the Lahntal valley and Taunus highlands to the River Main”. Here the same logo was used that will feature in all future tourist publications and marketing strategies: Höchst – Lebendiges Fachwerk (Höchst – Vibrant Timber Framing).

Half-timbered buildings and medieval towns featuring such edifices have a strong identity and represent a key holiday destination for day trippers or those on short tours within the region. Placing Höchst on the map with other medieval towns attests to the excellent quality of the ensemble. Moreover, half-timbered structures are also recognized in a national and international context as being of interest to tourists, especially as they are typical of the region. Both aspects spell new opportunities for Höchst.

Höchst logo for the Route of Half-Timbered Houses, © Tourismus + Congress GmbH Frankfurt am Main

Tourist office

The issue of the location and design of a potential tourist office in Höchst was debated once again by the Tourism working panel. The idea is to provide information on outstanding offerings for tourists not only in Höchst, but also in the greater Frankfurt region. The panel came to the conclusion that a “dedicated” tourist office was neither feasible nor affordable and would therefore need to be bolstered with additional products as part of a sustainable economic concept.

2014 saw the opening of the first tourist information office in a district of Höchst as a public private partnership with Tourismus und Congress GmbH. Tabak- und Presse Krämer, a newsagent based in Antoniterstrasse 22, was extended to include tourist information materials and souvenirs in its range of offerings. The conversion of the premises and the signs were financed through the support program. Frau Pechatsch, a refurbishment architect, was responsible for the realization.
 

In a move to supply tourists with information on the district, the series of leaflets provided by the City Planning Department was extended by the brochure „Rundgang durch die Innenstadt Höchst“, which can be obtained free of charge from the tourist information office, the neighborhood office and the City Planning Department. An English version is available: Circular Tour of the Center of Höchst.

Tourist Information on Antoniterstraße 22 in Höchst, © NH ProjektStadt, Foto: Herr Winkelman