Katowice’s eco-district of the future

Nowy Wełnowiec wizualizacja 4_media

Eko-Bryza is a Partner of PT Network, Poland Today’s network of companies that together promote Poland to the international business community.

A huge new eco-friendly multifunctional commercial and residential community is to be built on a former factory site in Poland’s industrial heartland of Silesia, an agglomeration which has been transformed in recent years.

Nowy Wełnowiec (New Wełnowiec) will be developed on the 25-hectare site of a former metallurgical plant that once produced zinc and zinc products, and will eventually contain 270,000 sqm of usable space on a total area of 447,000 sqm, with investment costs topping PLN 2 bn. The scheme will be eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable, with no cars above ground and with green spaces taking up more than 55% of the area. 

The idea of the project is excellent,” says Dorota Gruchała, head of the Kraków and Katowice office of international real estate consultancy JLL. “It is based on modern urban trends such as creating a multifunctional and balanced space for life and work within distance of one’s home.”

Nowy Wełnowiec will be developed on a 25-hectare site
Nowy Wełnowiec will be developed on a 25-hectare site

The owners of the land are three local companies called Eko-Bryza, Silesia Nova and Eko City. Piotr Uszok, the former mayor of Katowice from 1998 to 2014, is president of the board of Eko-Bryza and Silesia Nova, with Eko-Bryza fulfilling the role of investment manager. The strategic partner, and company responsible for development and supervision, is Capital Park, the Warsaw Stock Exchange-listed group that is developing the Norblin Factory scheme currently under construction in Warsaw, a project which is also being built on a former factory site. Polish architectural studio Jems Architekci is design author of Nowy Wełnowiec. Polish environmental waste solutions company Investeko is responsible for issues related to the land treatment, or remediation, of the site. 

The scheme is on the site of a former zinc factory (photo from the archives of Zakłady Metalurgiczne Silesia)
The scheme is on the site of a former zinc factory (photo from the archives of Zakłady Metalurgiczne Silesia)

A huge responsibility

The breakdown of the development space will be as follows: 57% for apartments, 11% for offices, 15% for service facilities and gastronomy, and the remaining 17% for education, culture, recreation and leisure functions. The scheme envisages a total of over 3,100 apartment, hotel and student accommodation rooms, housing around 7700 people on any given night, with around 4000 employees working in the district. 

It is a unique undertaking and we are very happy that we can be part of it,” says Jan Motz, president of the management board at Capital Park Group. “There has never yet been investment of such a wide spectrum in Katowice, or more broadly, in Poland. Creating a new city district basically from scratch on such a scale is a huge responsibility, challenge and satisfaction. Our goal is to create a place of the future for many generations. People want to be together; they want to live in recognizable, changeable and diverse places. We want to talk, interact and learn from each other. A multi-generational community in a multifunctional, experience-rich environment – this is the essence of Nowy Wełnowiec.”

According to Piotr Uszok, “Wełnowiec has a rich industrial history, and our investment will breathe new life into this district. The project’s idea is consistent with global housing trends incorporating a variety of functions. All facilities are within walking distance. This city planning approach enforces a significant reduction of car traffic in favour of walking and cycling. We took it even a step further—all car traffic will be moved underground. This will not be another fenced housing estate, but a space for residents of the district, the city and guests, and everyone will be able to spend time in the place of their choice. We will not forget about the history of Wełnowiec and its identity.”

In terms of buildings, 57% of Nowy Wełnowiec will be residential

An intense, sustainable, fabric

“We designed Nowy Wełnowiec to form the most attractive space for people, while creating high-intensity buildings,” said Marcin Sadowski, partner at JEMS Architekci. “New cities must be dense, but planned so that – despite such an intense fabric, they are simply the perfect place to live. That is why the buildings of Nowy Wełnowiec form pedestrian streets, squares with different moods, and everything revolves around a star-shaped park. The layout is the basis for life that goes on between buildings.”

According to Eko-Bryza, the broad timeline is as follows: 

  • 2022-2023: securing the building permit and developing the execution design
  • 2023/2024: planned start of the first stage of the investment
  • 2033: estimated completion of the entire project

The ecological and sustainable credentials of Nowy Wełnowiec are impressive. The scheme will be centred around a c. 4 ha park and over 4000 trees will be planted, as well as a variety of plants and greenery. Many of these plants will actually play a role in the reclamation process of the soil through the process of phytoremediation. Modern technologies will be used to facilitate the district’s energy self-sufficiency, complemented by low-energy housing, renewable energy sources – including wind and solar energy generation, green roofs covering about 115,000 sqm, rain gardens and other rainwater retention methods. While there will be no car traffic above ground, there will be access roads underground, with 5635 parking spaces. 

The contaminated soil will not have any negative impact on humans or animals, says Eko-Bryza – it will be subject to the following processes:

  • extraction, purification and relocation as part of the investment and use of land for landscaping and building purposes
  • applying clean and fertile surface layers of soil
  • phytoremediation processes (purification using special species of plants, trees and shrubs) 

Remediation works will be carried out in parallel with the investment process.

In the centre of Nowy Wełnowiec will be a 4-ha park. Over 4000 trees will be planted in the scheme.
In the centre of Nowy Wełnowiec will be a 4-ha park. Over 4000 trees will be planted in the scheme.

Can Katowice support and sustain such a large project, and is there the commercial and residential demand for new space in Katowice? “Absolutely,” states Dorota Gruchała of JLL. “There has been a lack of both office and residential projects in Katowice over the last few years as supply has been relatively weak. But it is changing – Katowice is the heart of the Silesian agglomeration which has 2.1 million residents. Katowice and the surrounding area has huge potential and investors are starting to see this.”

According to Eko-Bryza, the detailed financing structure of Nowy Wełnowiec will be planned at the stage of developing building permit designs for the scheme, after precise planning of the schedule, precise cost estimation and planning the implementation structure. “Due to the scale of the project, the current investors Eko-Bryza and Capital Park allow for the possibility of other developers implementing selected parts of the project. We will invite banks to finance the project as part of standard investment procedures.

Eko-Bryza is approaching the remediation and ecological pre-construction aspect of the scheme thoroughly and methodically: “The assumptions of Nowy Wełnowiec and the urban-architectural concept are consistent with the Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change for Katowice, as prepared on the initiative of the Ministry of the Environment. The land for the construction of the district has been examined and analyzed to identify the most optimal and safe remediation solutions by INVESTEKO, which specializes in the restoration of degraded areas. The developed ecological and environmental documentation provides that remediation works will be required in line with the guidelines of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection. Soil cleaning will be carried out in parallel with the investment process by a team of specialists under the scientific community’s supervision. These types of processes are often carried out in urban and post-industrial areas. The correct determination of soil surface contamination and the selection of an effective treatment method, while meeting legal requirements, are time-consuming, however necessary to start construction of Nowy Wełnowiec.”

Inspired by global greats of architecture

Inspirations for Nowy Wełnowiec have come from a range of projects, far and wide: “ ‘Hiding’ car traffic was the idea, and one of the conditions, set down by Jan Motz of Capital Park, and there’s a whole discussion going on and to be had about car traffic and its future role and position in public spaces. There are several projects around the world that have given us inspiration as the process of ‘repairing’ and reviving parts of cities is being seen all around the world. It’s not just about improving a city’s infrastructure but also about reviving the social fabric, rebuilding social capital, and improving quality of life,” said Tomasz Napieralski, associate at JEMS Architekci. 

Here are some of the areas and projects which have been mentioned as inspirations for Nowy Wełnowiec:

  • BIG architectural studio’s ideas for reconstructing former industrial parts of Brooklyn in New York, including Brooklyn Bridge
  • COBE studio’s design for ‘Opera Park’, a public park with underground parking in Copenhagen. 
  • The Park Royal Hotel in Singapore designed by WOHA studio, which has 15,000 sqm of greenery in its balconies and terraces around the exterior.
  • The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, 18 floors built into the rocks below ground level in an abandoned quarry designed by Atkins Global. 
  • Hammarby Sjöstad post-industrial district in Stockholm on a c. 250-hectare site, a project which has dealt with significantly contaminated land.
  • Kirchsteigfeld in Potsdam, Berlin, designed by one ‘master developer’ – Groth Gruppe – between 1993 to 1998 – on a 60-hectare site.
  • Seaside in Florida, a master-planned community designed on the principles of New Urbanism.

To see a short promotional video of Nowy Wełnowiec click here

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