Message dated 01.12.2021
Urbanization and digitalisation are advancing, demographic change is in full swing and everyone is talking about climate protection. Other factors such as globalization and traffic chaos complete the list of future challenges. A rethinking of planning is not only required in the metropolises of this world. Even small towns have to face the circumstances and reinvent themselves for long-term social and sustainable coexistence.
Where is the development going?
Technical developments, ongoing migration, new lifestyles are just some of the challenges that require the rapid implementation of innovative ideas and urban transformations. Strategies for large cities like Hamburg or conurbations like the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region are not the only things needed. Development projects are also being developed in the Westerwald, with the involvement of affected residents.
Small town versus metropolis
Due to the influx of former country dwellers into large cities, effective land use is at the forefront of local planning. Building upward and preventing gentrification of individual districts are just two of the factors in future housing models. Based on existing infrastructure and resources, the quality of life should sustainably increase through productive work environments, attractive meeting places and more open spaces. The consequences of climate change are of particular importance. The aim is to create enough green spaces, plant bus stops or plant young trees to limit CO² emissions. The particular challenge here is adequate irrigation of urban green spaces. A positive side effect can be found in the calming effect of recreation areas on residents.
In rural areas such as the Westerwald with medium-sized cities at most, other problems are at the fore. Despite its 3,000 km² area, only 16 villages have more than 5,000 inhabitants and you won’t find a big city. The future of urban development is considered in a correspondingly differentiated way. In rural areas, the cohesion of the inhabitants is of primary importance. The reduction of communities with a simultaneous increase in the average age requires targeted action to maintain community communication and unity. The attractiveness of smaller communities can also be enhanced by updating the regional architecture, promoting building structures and ensuring a sufficient supply supply.
If Nister or Dreifelden lacks gigantic apartment buildings with unknown tenants, people still live in the neighborhoods of Untershausen or Weidenhahn, but even here the classic structures of tacit cohesion are gradually crumbling. Closing post offices or supermarkets requires new transportation options to neighboring communities. Residents are reconnecting through a return to easily accessible services, a sprawling combination of life, work, leisure and dining.
Germany fails to score with its digital offer in the countryside. Slow internet hinders dynamic innovation ideas and future-oriented concepts. Small towns can benefit from networking private demand and public offerings, as well as maintaining urgent infrastructure.
rebuild the infrastructure
Due to the degradation of fixed retail in the once lively shopping streets, the number of online orders is also increasing in rural areas, despite sometimes insufficient reception. It can also save time, but at the same time resources are unnecessarily used and the loneliness of many older people, especially without human contact, increases. The reconstruction of the desired infrastructure such as doctors’ offices, schools or community centers is a decisive factor in determining the attractiveness of the individual locations in the Westerwald.
Living climate protection
The Westerwald is green, the average amount of precipitation per year in Montabaur is slightly above the German average. But climate change is making itself felt here too. Smart planting benefits not only the eye of the beholder, but also the environment.
Concrete measures in the Westerwald
Despite sharing identical challenges, the Westerwald differs slightly from other predominantly rural areas. The total number of inhabitants here has increased slightly in recent years to around 203,000. Here too the financial scarcity of other communities is not felt dramatically, the residents of the districts of Altenkirchen or Neuwied have an average standard of living. However, concepts for the conservation or revitalization of attractive cities and towns are also elaborated here, some are already bearing fruit.
What happened so far
A good decade has passed since the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Housing and Communities granted Rennerod support for the redesign of its downtown area as part of its “Small Towns and Communities” financial support program. Between 2010 and 2013, Hubertusplatz underwent architectural redesign in addition to other modernization measures, and the rectory has been a popular meeting place for young and old ever since.
What the future brings
Thanks to the continued guaranteed supply functions, the quality of life in Rennerod has again increased, a model for urban development programs in other small towns and communities.
● Support in Altenkirchen: Altenkirchen also benefits from federal and state building subsidies. Included in the “Sustainable Growth and Renewal” program in 2020, concrete private and public measures are aimed at stopping the economic and demographic change in the city center. The project, for which a selected design office is developing a first concept of mobility, green spaces, building structures and recreational areas, will last eight years.
● Check out the presentation at Lahnstein: The medium-sized center in the Rhine Westerwald seems to do everything right with its future-oriented concept for a “sustainable city”. To support the holistic development strategy, the mayor of the city of Lahnstein, which belongs to the district, received a grant of 500,000 euros from the Minister of the Interior of Rhineland-Palatinate. The renovations are planned as part of a redesign of the city center.
● Further development in Selters: The interest of the inhabitants of the town of the same name in the “Future Workshop Selters” is high. Public participation comes as no surprise: after all, the answers to pressing future questions will be found in the next two decades. Two particularly urgent tasks quickly emerged: the transformation of the city center in terms of climate protection and with respect to a sustainable mobility system.
● Wirges 2030: Even in Wirges, which is surrounded by mountains, nothing is decided without the participation of the residents. Everyone is called upon to design sustainable and innovative concepts for a future-oriented “Wirges 2030” together with professional urban planners. Including infrastructure and digitalisation, climate protection and turnaround in traffic, and last but not least, a new sense of community. (prm)