Aiming high with a citizen's report

14. February 2022
A. Hert / CC BY-SA 3.0

An investor wants to build a new district on the former ParcelPost site in Munich - with two towers that would then be the tallest buildings in the city. Although the plan has been controversially discussed, the participants of four randomly selected planning cells are in favour of it. On 11 February 2022, their citizens' report was published.

126 Munich residents had accepted the invitation to spend four days intensively discussing the future of the area around the parcel post hall. The participants, aged 14 to 80, went through a programme in four groups, which included a tour of the site and presentations by experts and interest groups. During the subsequent work in small groups, they developed ideas and concrete proposals for the further development of the area, which were presented, discussed and evaluated.

Discussion about high-rise buildings

With a currently planned height of about 155 metres, the high-rise buildings planned for the area would be the tallest buildings in Munich. As it is unclear how the towers will change the visual relationships on site and the cityscape of Munich in general, there is much discussion both among the population and among experts about the construction of the towers. Besides the height, the sustainable design of the skyscrapers is also an important issue. This includes, for example, climate-friendly construction and operation as well as the use of the towers.

In the planning cells, an in-depth discussion of the high-rise buildings took place. The citizens' experts were also given the opportunity to formulate recommendations for the height of the buildings.

Good utilisation concept desired

All in all, the citizens' report comprises almost 90 pages. It says, for example, that the planned green and open spaces are not yet large enough. The participants recommend more of them, "with a high quality of stay". The experts reject a purely commercial quarter, as the currently valid development plan would allow. They would like to see a good utilisation concept for the parcel post hall. The citizens' experts disagreed on the external design, which is why an architectural competition was also discussed.

With regard to the parcel post hall, investor Büschl wants to ensure and pay for the renovation of the listed hall and turn it into a public place for culture and sport if he gets permission for new buildings on the scale planned so far. The experts welcomed the ideas, but demanded that a utilisation concept and, above all, an operating concept be drawn up "at an early stage". One suggestion in the expert report is that the city "set the organisational framework for cultural operation by founding an association or a community of interest". In addition, the public's rights of use should be "reliably and permanently secured in the land register".

"Developing the neighbourhood in an ecologically sustainable way"

The planning cell participants also recommend to "develop the neighbourhood in an ecologically sustainable way". This applies both to the new buildings and to mobility. If this is implemented consistently, the neighbourhood could become a "showcase or lighthouse project". In any case, it should achieve the platinum standard of the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB). In terms of mobility, the experts want a neighbourhood with as little car traffic as possible and a cleverly planned coexistence of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The report will now be incorporated into further planning and presented to the city council. Investor Büschl announced that he would take over "the valuable impulses".

The topics dealt with by the planning cells were collected at a kick-off and information evening and a round table in July. They ranged from building density, monument protection and sustainability of the area and the high-rise buildings to the use of the parcel post hall and the open spaces. So that these topics could be examined from different perspectives, there were presentations by, among others, the German Sustainable Building Council, the Munich Forum, the Technical University of Munich as well as municipal departments and renowned architecture, landscape architecture and engineering firms.

Participants a reflection of the population

The participants of the planning cells were selected representatively from the population register. They had to be at least 14 years old. They discussed various topics in working groups for several days. The sortition procedure ensured that all residents had equal opportunities to participate and that a broad spectrum of different people had their say. Nicolas Bach from the Nexus Institute, which led the process, emphasises that 23 percent of the participants were between 14 and 24 years old, "these are people we normally find really hard to get to".

The wishes and demands of the planning cells for the ParcelPost site are being incorporated into the official planning of the city. The design of sustainable mobility on the site plays an important role.

The most important points at a glance:

  • At the suggestion of the experts, there will be more generous green and open spaces between the buildings than previously planned.
  • A resilient concept for the operation of the listed parcel post hall will be developed. The curved building from the 1960s will be renovated and used as an open space and public meeting place.
  • The new ParcelPost site is to become a climate-neutral and sustainable neighbourhood with an innovative, low-car mobility concept. Although this guiding principle is already included in the previous master plan, it is to be consistently developed and improved in the further planning process.
  • For the façade of the two high-rise buildings, which with their 155-metre height are basically approved by the experts from the ranks of the citizens, alternative solutions are to be designed and discussed in addition to the present design.

Planning cells since the 1970s

The participatory procedure of citizens' reports through planning cells was developed in the 1970s by Wuppertal sociology professor Peter C. Dienel. It has since been used around 80 times in Germany on various topics. The procedure is characterised by the random selection of participants, the division of the topic into work units, the communication of important information, the discussion in unmoderated small groups and the summary of recommendations in a citizens' report.

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