Basel Euro Ville as node and place

8.3.1 The node

The importance of Basel is historically connected with its central position in the European transport networks. It lies at the intersection of the north-south Rhine axis (from northern Europe to Italy) and an east-west axis connecting France, Switzerland, southern Germany, and Austria. Not only the Swiss but also the French and the German railways have a station in Basel. While being relatively marginal in the national rail system, Basel HauptBahnhof is a major hub of international traffic (Figure 8.1). ICEs already stop at the station (2 hours 30 minutes to Frankfurt), and TGVs will soon do the same (1 hour to Strasbourg, 3 hours to Paris). In the near future, high-speed connections through Switzerland into Italy will be provided by tilting trains of the Pendolino type. Like several other railway station projects, the redevelopment of Basel HauptBahnhof and its surrounding areas were initiated in the transport sphere. But Basel has a specific problem. Although it is an important national and international node, the station is not the main node of the local transport system (Figure 8.2). Since the 1970s, the creation of a complete, multimodal transport interchange has been an objective of the municipal government.

8.3.2 The place

The city of Basel (Basel Stadt) has a limited area. The French and the German borders, on the one hand, and the separate administrative territory of the county of Basel (Basel Land), on the other, leave very little space for growth within the municipal boundaries. The city accommodates 190 000 inhabitants in an area of 37 km2. The urban agglomeration on Swiss territory has about 500 000 inhabitants. The broader urban region stretching into Germany (Freiburg) and France (Mulhouse) has about 2.1 million. An informal association, the Regio Basiliensis, has existed since 1963 to promote an integrated transnational development of the region. The organization has been an active promoter of the EuroVille initiative. The site of the

Fig. 8.2 Basel SBB station in the local public transportation networks. (Source: Tarifve Nordwestschweiz)
Fig. 8.3 Basel SBB and its surroundings: the city centre on the right of the tracks, Gundelingen on the left. (Photo: Marc Eggimann, Basel)

railway station (Figure 8.3) is offset relative to the old city centre and the adjoining central business district, on the north side of the tracks. A sketchily defined zone separates the station from the city. On the other side of the tracks (on the left in Figure 8.3) is the neighbourhood of Gundelingen. This area has a mixture of middle-income and moderate-income housing, shops, and light manufacturing.

8.3.3 The process

Plans for the railway station area of Basel have been in the making for a long time. More than 10 years elapsed between the first discussions and the start of construction. In this period, a number of objectives have repeatedly been amended. The plans themselves have taken on a life of their own, becoming increasingly detached from the political arena. Three planning phases and one multiple implementation phase can be distinguished in Basel. In the first phase, the basic concepts were defined through an open process in which the public participated. In the second phase (detailed planning) and the third phase (operational planning), the goals were translated into concrete actions, while the degree of participation was progressively reduced. A fourth phase—implementation—got started before the planning process was completed, though in a fragmentary way.

Phase 1: concept planning, 1983—1986

At the beginning of the 1980s, within a context of globally expanding but locally contracting property markets, the risk that new development could 'leapfrog' the city gradually became apparent to the local government. Economic activity, especially in the growing service sector, had to be kept within the municipal borders, and potential new activities had to be attracted. The railway station area seemed to be the only part of the city offering the space that was needed. The development of a service centre at that particular location would make a direct contribution to the local economy, with an expected creation of 4000 jobs. These could offer local firms expansion possibilities, thus keeping them in the city. It was hoped that some of the new premises could be occupied by external firms, or could offer development opportunities to sectors complementary to the strong core of Basel's economy (essentially the chemical industry). An additional benefit of the project would be relief of the pressure on residential neighbourhoods, halting conversion of dwellings to offices for tertiary-sector activities. This would help to stem the outward flow of population (4000 inhabitants per year lost in the 1980s). Development of a service centre would be connected to and would benefit from the long-needed regional transport interchange that would be integrated with the railway station.

In the same years, SBB (the Swiss railways) was redefining its programmes for Basel HauptBahnhof. The station would be developed in the framework of Bahn 2000, the extensive (estimated at SFr 5.4 billion) national development and investment programme of SBB. The already strong position of the station on international transport routes (Germany and France) would be reinforced, as would its role within regional and local transport networks. On the whole, a doubling of the transport capacity was envisaged. But transport development was not the only important area for SBB. Like many of its European counterparts, the Swiss railways were reorienting their activities towards the market. Among other things, they were looking for better ways to exploit their property assets. The redevelopment of areas next to the centrally located railway stations appeared to be an obvious choice.

Some common ground between the objectives of the city government and the railways was clearly emerging. The two parties were contemplating the possibility of a joint development of the area. Also, the Swiss Mail (PTT) was showing an interest in a transformation that could provide it with a new distribution centre and the possibility of exploiting its own property. The county administration (Basel Land) had shown its readiness to collaborate on the realization of the transport interchange. The final impetus for the initiative was provided by the discussion, at the beginning of the 1980s, about extension of the N2 motorway into the city to connect with the railway station. As a precondition for considering the road project, the city council demanded that a global plan for the station neighbourhood be made. In 1983, the city council voted in favour of a credit of SFr 1 million to finance the planning studies in preparation of a master plan for the area. In a referendum, the population approved the measure by a 60% majority. The rest of the funding for the study, which cost a total of SFr 2.5 million, was provided by the other institutional partners: Basel county, SBB, and PTT. The goals of the study were to clarify the objectives, verify feasibility prospects, reach agreement among the partners, and prepare the following phases.

From the outset the promoters opted for an open and participatory definition of the programme. An underlying reason for this choice is that in the Swiss political system—which is characterized by decentralization and extensive forms of direct democracy—no major initiative can succeed without a high degree of consensus. The political system has checks and balances at each step of the process. Any change in a zoning ordinance would have to be voted on by the city council and could be subjected to a popular referendum. The same applies to budget claims, even if it is just for funding of the planning studies.

The three-year planning process resulted in the document Konzept 86 (Figure 8.4). Konzept 86 has been defined in three steps: initially, an inventory of the key problems; then a comparison between alternative development options; and finally an elaboration of guiding development principles. During this period, the population and other interested parties have been kept informed. Meanwhile, the planning process has been open to suggestions from outside. In 1986 the document was approved by the governments of Basel city and Basel county, as well as by the executives of SBB and PTT. In the course of the discussions and consultations, some of the initial objectives were adapted and others were added. Following negotiations with local residents, additional priorities were set: the mitigation of traffic impacts, and the control of development pressure in residential areas.

The main goals of the development were identified as the realization of (a) a transport interchange and (b) a service centre. To achieve the first objective, a complex package of measures was put together:

• Two tram lines would be diverted to the station, and one that already stopped there would be extended to the suburbs.

• A new bypass road on the south side of the station would provide better accessibility by car to the area, and would free the neighbourhood of Gundelingen from through traffic.

• 650-750 parking spaces would be created.

• The N2 motorway would be extended to the railway station.

• The station square would be remodelled to better serve public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.

• Additional rail tracks would be provided, in order to expand existing national train services, and to allow connection to the French TGV system, the development of a transnational

Fig. 8.4 Konzept 86, a transport interchange and a service centre. (Source: Projectleitung Master plan. Drawin V.Martinec)

regional S-Bahn network, and a possible rail link to the international airport of Basel-Mulhouse.

• Pedestrian access to and within the station area would be improved.

• A new postal station would be built.

A further improvement of the already excellent accessibility of the site was seen as the main asset for achieving the second objective, the realization of a service centre. Areas for development were already available, and others would be freed. First, new sites would be opened up by moving technical facilities to more peripheral locations. Second, other areas would be made available by redeveloping the parcels currently occupied by artisan workshops along the tracks on the south side. The idea was to attract to the area service firms with a high added value. This would give substance to the hope of developing a business pole, which would make the city of Basel more attractive to investors, both local and foreign.

Phase 2: detailed planning, 1987—1991

In 1987, the council and the population (through a new referendum) voted for the second time in favour of a study credit, this time in the amount of SFr 4.5 million, to continue the planning process. Other successful referendums were held on the construction of underground parking next to the station, and the rezoning of an area owned by the French railways to allow tertiary developments. The rezoning of two other railway areas was approved by the council in 1990, completing the redefinition of the legal framework for land-use regulation. Further elaboration of the plan was commissioned to a private firm specializing in the management of large projects. Its task was to direct the process and coordinate the partners. Special attention had to be devoted to the complex web of infrastructure works, including diversion and extension of the tram lines, pedestrian and bicycle access, a bypass round Gundelingen, and accessibility to the south side of the station. The technical elaboration of the principles defined in Konzept 86 resulted in a new document, Projekt '91. In September 1991, this was adopted by the partners as a basis on which to go further. No fundamental changes were made in the basic contents of the plan in this phase. Most amendments stemmed from feasibility considerations. One notable amendment was presented on financial grounds (insufficient exploitation margins): this was a proposal for a less ambitious passage connecting the north and the south sides of the station, in place of the originally envisaged station bridge. However, the most important changes were not so much in the content as in the process, which became less open to participation and more technocratic. The issues will be examined in some detail in the following sections.

Phases 3 and 4: operational planning, 1992—1995, and implementation, 1994—2005

After 1991, the planning activities moved into an operational phase. Impact studies were carried out, and documentation was prepared for the council vote on the plan. Meanwhile, detailed negotiations between the partners continued in order to hammer out bilateral contracts. Implementation of Projekt '91 had to take place in a context that differed significantly from that prevailing when the plan's basic principles were formulated in 1986. One of the most significant changes was that the real estate market had entered a crisis. Another was that the geographical mobility of firms and workers had grown further. In addition, the financial situation of the public authorities had worsened, while environmental consciousness had increased. The translation of the project into actions had to take all of this into account. As a consequence, the motorway link was abandoned in 1992 (officially, it was delayed for 30 years). That decision was made both for financial reasons (a projected cost of SFr 350 million francs) and political reasons (priority given to public transport). Plans for other road infrastructure were also abandoned or delayed. An integrated approach to implementation seemed even less practical than ever. A subdivision of the plan, along the lines anticipated by Projekt '91, into 21 autonomous subprojects was then adopted (Figure 8.5). Changes were also made in the image and the role of the project. The name was changed from 'master plan' to EuroVille, and the project became the main component of an emerging city marketing strategy for Basel.

Around 1994, while several elements of the package were still awaiting final approval, implementation of individual parts began. Construction of the subproject Bahnhof Ost (new postal station and offices for the market) began in January 1994 (Figure 8.6). Construction of a signalling post, a locomotive depot, new tracks, reconstruction of the Münchensteiner bridge and of the Nauenstrasse started at around the same time. In the meantime, in 1995, financing of the main infrastructure package was finally approved by a large majority vote, both in the city and the county council, and no referendum was called. Soon afterwards, the board of directors of the PTT and of SBB also approved their share of investment. The task of creating the financial and planning framework for the development of EuroVille could be considered a closed book. In 1996 and 1997, construction of Bahnhof Ost (opening expected in 2000) and of the central parking lots progressed, while plans for the tram lines and the station passage were further elaborated. Five of the six buildings of the office complex had already been rented. The new tenants were the Swiss telecommunications and Swiss mail companies, a software firm, and a business school. The sixth building was reserved for smaller prospective users.

Fig. 8.5 EuroVille: the subprojects. (Source: Koordinationsauschuss EuroVille)
Fig. 8.6 Bahnhof Ost Basel: new postal station and offices for the market. (Source: Projektgruppe Bahnhof Ost)

The actors involved

A complex galaxy of actors has been involved with the different phases of EuroVille. The project was initiated by the city of Basel. The idea of combining a transport interchange with a service centre emerged in debates inside the council at the beginning of the 1980s. Basel county got involved essentially because of its interests in the regional transport components (suburban extension of the tram lines, S-Bahn). SBB owns 90% of the areas covered by the project, and Basel HauptBahnhof is crucial to both its transport and property development strategies. For these reasons, its participation in the project was particularly active, often more than that of the city itself. On the other hand, contradictions between the transport and the property dimensions of the operation do not appear to have been entirely solved within SBB. These contradictions crop up in repeated internal discussions. The objectives of the PTT are more limited. Essentially, it is interested in expanding its distribution and administrative facilities in the area, and in developing part of its property commercially.

After the publication of Konzept 86, a partnership (Immobilien Bahnhofostgesellschaft, IBO) was formed between PTT, SBB, and a private consortium led by architecture/development firms on the initiative of the latter. In 1986, these private interests 'knocked the door' of PTT and SBB. The objective of the partnership was to develop the first of the elements of the service centre to be built, Bahnhof Ost (postal station, offices for PTT, and offices for the market). Their main worry was incurring delays in the process; their interest was strictly limited to the perimeter of Bahnhof Ost.

A multifarious range of local interest groups have been involved in or have been otherwise affected by the planning process. Gruppe Bahnhof is a politic cross-party lobby formed in 1982 to promote the development of the station and its surroundings. This group is connected with employers' and employees' organizations, and to Regio Basiliensis (an informal, cross-national regional political association). At the beginning, in particular, it had played an important role in shaping the discourse around the development and in identifying some of the key slogans, such as 'transport interchange' and 'service centre'. To this group, the project was essentially an opportunity for the city, spanning the economic, urban planning and transport domains. The role of Gruppe Bahnhof could be defined as that of a facilitator, both external (as in communication with the public) and internal (as in mediation of conflicts).

The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Gundeli-Quartier represents the local residents and small firms of the neighbourhood south of the station. The group took an active part in the elaboration of Konzept 86. However, their request to participate in the second phase was refused, on the grounds that the neighbourhood was not included in the perimeter of the development. They were instead assigned a diminished role as a discussion partner. Originally, they had a meeting every two months; later the frequency was reduced to one a year between 1992 and 1995. One issue that was important to the group was the negative impact of the project on the neighbourhood south of the railway station. On their request, impact studies were made. However, they have seen little evidence that the results have been taken into consideration.

Finally, an Interessengemeinschaft Master Plan Bahnhof SBB Basel (IGM P coalition of private interests (banks, insurance firms, artisans, construction firms), was formed to give a voice to the potential investors and users in the area.

Table 8.1 summarizes the main phases of the project.

+1 0

Post a comment