Piotr Uszok: Public investments are key

What are you hoping for once the city center redevelopment project kicks off?

Piotr Uszok*: In my opinion, public investments should be a driving force for any city’s development. They should result in an added value, which is attracting commercial investments and ultimately causing an improvement in the quality of life in the city. Quality of life must always come first.

How can you count on attracting commercial development now, when developers are largely in trouble, putting projects on the backburner and trying to survive?

PU: This is precisely where publicly-funded projects step in. The money earmarked for public investments this year is €113m and it’s money that won’t disappear because of the crisis. So regardless of trends in the capital or financial – or, speaking more precisely, development – markets, the difficult time we’re going through now won’t be wasted.

Why is it actually the city center that’s in need of a redevelopment?

PU: Even if there are some iconic buildings there, it’s still is an area that’s chaotic and degraded, a result of many years of wrong decisions from planners and architects, but most of all politicians.

Another major project to start soon in Katowice is the reconstruction of the main train station. But there was an opportunity to do that years ago, with a joint project proposed by ING Real Estate. Why didn’t it take off then?

PU: We couldn’t accept the terms of the deal proposed to us. A joint venture of ING Real Estate, Polish State Railways and the city would have been rather disadvantageous to the city. We’d have had hardly any say in decision-making, while still contributing property to the joint venture.

*Piotr Uszok has held the post of Katowice mayor for 10 years, now in his third term in the office. Whether he holds on to win a fourth tour of duty will depend primarily on whether he can successfully kick off the process of city center redevelopment. His task is to create a constructive working environment for developers and he’s got to do it in a hurry, not just because of the next election but in order to capitalize on popular enthusiasm for a recent design tender on the area’s regeneration. To fail now, he knows, would be a horrendous setback for the city.

Source: CIJ Journal