Staying in Touch

Interview with Isabel Neumann

Isabel Neumann works in the Contact Office "Urban Redevelopment"

The centre was set up in the district Am Leipziger Tor, which is severely affected by demolitions. The office is a contact point for citizens and mediates between inhabitants, the city administration and other institutions. What are the tasks of the contact centre?


Isabel Neumann: On the one hand, we attempt to find “Claim Sponsors” that have ideas for using free plots and who will maintain them in a voluntary capacity. On the other hand, it is a question of strengthening the social fabric in the district Am Leipziger Tor, which is a core area of the urban redevelopment. The Dessau concept does not only focus on the landscape zones, but also on the urban cores. Historically, this district was located in front of the city gates; this is where the first plague houses were also built. Therefore, social work has a long tradition here.

How can the district be characterised?

Isabel Neumann: It is a bit of a socially weak district. The employment rate is low: only one third of the population would be at all able to enter into gainful employment, and of them, around 16 to 17 percent are out of work. A large proportion of the population claims a pension. Next to them, there are a lot of young people, children and youths here. There is also the problem of alcoholism.

What does the term “activating district policies” mean?

Isabel Neumann: There are numerous institutions here that we cooperate closely with in the “Soziale Stadtteil AG”: from youth projects and daycare for senior citizens through to soup kitchens. The facilities work autonomously and are not dependent on us, but the contact office ensures better networking and joint actions. We attempt to draw greater attention to this district. For example we develop projects together with women’s centres that particularly fit this district. We also have good connections to the city offices who inform us where there could be suitable subsidisation programmes for initiatives or projects.

What questions do inhabitants bring to the contact office?

Isabel Neumann: Generally they are worried or afraid: what will be demolished? We talk then and the people here are aware of the problematic locations for the city. But the older people do feel that assets are being destroyed with the demolition – above all those who moved to the new prefab industrial blocks 30 years ago as they were at the time the most modern apartments on offer. On the other hand, there are young people who move here because housing is cheap and perhaps also because they don’t really care where they live. This leads to a lot of conflict.

How do the citizens comment on the changes in the city, the green expanse and the Claims?

Isabel Neumann: Very differently. Some find it wonderful that there are new green areas – they themselves see the vacancies as a problem and get the feeling they are living in a ghost town. They feel reinvigorated green areas are an improvement. But some feel the meadows are just weeds. The claims also have very different responses. But if you explain that citizens are accepting responsibility for plots there and therefore ease the strain on the city somewhat, the people then tend to take a better view.

Info: Dessau-Roßlau

(Municipal Area of 2010)
1989: 119.377
2009: 88.153
2025: 78.681 (Future Prospect)

Municipal Area: 244,64 qkm

IBA-Website of Dessau-Roßlau