Turning the Tide of Emigration

Interview with Robby Risch

"Property owners are now discovering that the green zone is turning their land into popular places to live.”

Robby Risch, Mayor of Weißenfels


Why did Weißenfels apply to participate in the IBA?


Robby Risch: We saw a chance to put ourselves in a good position with regard to urban regeneration. We need ideas to deal with the process of shrinking and for making use of industrial brownfield sites in the town.

These brownfield sites can be found predominantly in the Neustadt quarter …

Robby Risch: … which is an area of focus of the IBA. We have tried to create added value with greening measures in the houses dating back to the “Gründerzeit” in the late 19th century under the slogan “Grün der Zeit”, which means “green times”. That was in the Neustadt quarter where the large industrial brownfield site had destroyed the links between the housing areas and the sense of wellbeing. It was necessary to follow new paths in order to find solutions to this, and the IBA showed us the way and helped us. The IBA is a process in which similar projects for the old town originated. The results of the initial ad hoc designs for redeveloping and enhancing the promenade have been presented just in time for the IBA year 2010.

The landscaped corridor that connects the banks of the Saale with the old town is a new way of dealing with industrial areas that are no longer required. Isn’t that also a form of capitulation in the face of emigration?

Robby Risch: No, on the contrary! The residential area around the old power station has become attractive and is experiencing an influx of residents. Property owners are now discovering that the green zone is turning their land into popular places to live. They are investing in their homes. This is an effect you can see in other places too, it confirms the concept.

But the old power station still isn’t a nice building to look at.

Robby Risch: That will change. The town intends to create a leisure and events centre. Work on the building shell is planned to be finished in 2010 and the interior is to be completed in 2012. Urban development will not end with the IBA year 2010. But we will have something to show, and we will do this with pride and self-confidence at the Saxony-Anhalt state show between 20 and 22 August, which Weißenfels will host.

Who will operate the events centre in the power station?

Robby Risch: Initially the operator will be the town’s own sport and leisure enterprise. But neighbouring sports club and the youth welfare association are firm partners. There are also plans to lease rooms to commercial users such as restaurateurs or disco operators so that the town, the owner, provides the building, while those running the ventures decide what’s on offer there.

Weißenfels is characterised by a great deal of commitment on the part of clubs, businesses and its citizens.

Robby Risch: The town is in the fortunate position of being able to call on the support of its committed citizens who played such an important role in the IBA. For me the best example of this was the tree-planting action in Neustadt Park in which more than 300 visitors took part and which was funded by private donations.

Actions like that are one thing. But will the commitment last? For example, who will looks after the park?

Robby Risch: Neustadt Park is not yet finished, but it has already been partially opened because of the great demand. It has been designed to require little maintenance. As the body primarily responsible, the town is negotiating with an association about sharing some responsibility with young people, since they are the main users.

Do you see the municipal council as driver or facilitator?

Robby Risch: At the beginning, as the driver, but in the course of the IBA we have gained a large number of partners, not least as a result of the public workshops. That is where wishes are expressed and suggestions are made. Implementation is mainly a matter for the council. But when you involve citizens in the planning process, their identification with the scheme increases.

What is your vision for Weißenfels after the IBA?

Robby Risch: Weißenfels is developing as a secondary centre with a high degree of responsibility for the region. By continuing to develop further industrial sites with attractive housing and pleasant surroundings, which include the newly reclaimed bank of the river Saale, we can perhaps even reverse the trend of emigration, which has already decreased.

Info: Weißenfels

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 43.639
2009: 33.315
2025: 26.140 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 51,6 qkm

IBA-Website of Weißenfels