The reuse of a former industrial site into a new neighbourhood
The HafenCity Master Plan was concluded by the Senate of the City of Hamburg in February 2000. But the opportunity for a transformation of the inner-city was partly already perceived in the early 1990s. The fall of the Berlin Wall i.e. also fundamentally improved Hamburg’s role in Europe. From a city on the eastern edge of the western world, Hamburg “suddenly” became a metropolis in the heart of a regrowing continent.
This opened the opportunity to become an important interface in Central Europe. The connections to northern Europe were also intensified and the entire Baltic Sea region became increasingly important. Hamburg gained enormous development potential through this process. With this in mind, Hamburg’s former mayor Henning Voscherau gave the unofficial order to consider the inner-city harbour region (now known as Hamburg’s Hafen City) for a change in 1991.

The long-term challenge for the planning and realisation of the HafenCity is to strike the right balance between growth and integration, economic stimulation and social considerations, international and local criteria, and between innovation and tradition.

The HafenCity Hamburg GmbH (in cooperation with the Ministry of Urban Development) ensures integrated development management for the entire district. HafenCity Hamburg Gmbh is 100% financed by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The supervisory board, chaired by the First Mayor of Hamburg, is composed of members of the City Senate.

Resources needed

The lion’s share of investment comes from private investors, which will invest around EUR 8.5bn in HafenCity land and buildings at today’s prices.
The proceeds of sales of building sites (around 50 % of the area) will finance infrastructure, roads, bridges, promenades and parks.

Evidence of success

HafenCity is among the most outstanding urban development projects on the waterfront anywhere. HafenCity was designed as a sustainable urban development project. Various levels intertwined in the process. As planning progressed further, an energy-efficient, climate-friendly heating supply and the development of sustainable building certification followed. HafenCity’s Ecolabel has proven a great success within a very short time - leading the way in Germany.

Difficulties encountered

- Underestimation of the location
- Non-compliance with a time limit (some buildings and constructions were and still are delayed)

Potential for learning or transfer

The HafenCity is characterized by Hamburg’s unique combination of direct access to the waterfront and to the city centre. This unique and urban development situation is situated in the heart of a prospering metropolitan region with relatively favourable future prospects. For this reason, the size, dynamics of development, usage patterns and urban planning qualities that are aspired or realized in the HafenCity Hamburg, are certainly not fully transferable automatically to other urban regions.
Basic forms of this major project, by contrast, can certainly be transferred to other situations in an adapt manner. The planning process and the development seem essential. Especially with regard to the planning process, the community must secure access to the properties in public before considering concrete urban planning.

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Main institution
HafenCity Hamburg GmbH
Hamburg, Germany (Deutschland)
Start Date
January 2000
End Date


Aurelien Parsy Please login to contact the author.