DFC Studies Adaptive Re-use Best Practices in Germany

November 18, 2014

DFC Implementation Office Convener Chris Dorle, who is also a Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, had the opportunity to take a self-directed study tour of Germany in October. The goal of the study tour was to research Germany’s best practices in sustainability and the adaptive reuse of vacant industrial property. In crisscrossing the country by rail and rad (German for bike), he was able to glean information and actions that can be used in Detroit, including:

Renewables provide more than clean energy and can be a potential local revenue source for former industrial cities. At the Local Renewables Conference in Freiburg, Dorle joined energy policy experts from across the European Union and the world to discuss the lessons of Germany’s Energiewende, renewable energy transition. Renewables are not only increasingly competitive as a means of powering cities and regions – thank Germany’s $140 billion investment for setting prices on the path to grid parity – but through new financial partnerships such as crowdfunding, they hold enormous potential as a means of generating local revenue for cash-strapped cities and residents alike.

Industrial heritage can form the basis for creating cultural destinations. The former industrial capital of Germany, the Ruhrgebiet has transformed itself and its former coalmines and blast furnaces into a European cultural center. The “Route of Industrial Culture” links these landmarks into an interconnected greenway system, with signs pointing the way for cyclists to visit sites such as Zollverein, the iconic former coal mine turned UNESCO world heritage site and museum, Gasometer Oberhausen, a former natural gas storage facility turned world-class art museum, and Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, a former iron works turned outdoor adventure destination with climbing walls, rope courses, and Europe’s largest diving tank.

Musical history can be leveraged as a differentiator. The former East German city of Leipzig has branded itself as a world city of music by establishing a “Trail of Notes”, a musical tour of 23 preserved and restored sites famous for their connection to composers to such as Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner, and Mahler. By elevating its musical history, Leipzig has increased its appeal as a destination, differentiating itself from its neighbors including nearby Berlin.