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For years, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has been experiencing significant pressure towards urban development, resulting primarily from its intense economic growth and the considerable immigration that this is tied to.
As the political, economic and cultural centre of the country, Luxembourg City has been especially affected by this growth, though the resulting population increase is also already being experienced on a significant scale outside the capital.
The country's economic development has had some negative effects, however, such as rising land prices, increased congestion and a selective exodus of certain population groups. All of these phenomena can be felt in the capital.
An integrated development plan has been drawn up in order to address these challenges and lay the foundations for a city that provides a high quality of life in the long term. This plan focuses on sustainability and seeking to reconcile social, economic and ecological criteria.
Cities and municipalities are in a constant state of change. Places that are thriving, in particular, are faced with the issue of reconciling a range of interwoven factors and near-constant conflicts of use. New housing needs to be incorporated alongside existing structures – without conflict if possible – while other areas become abandoned and need intelligent revitalisation plans.
When using such a plan to steer urban development, continuous monitoring is essential so action can be taken in a timely manner when needed. This means continually checking in how far the city in its past and present state is able to serve the needs of the future. With a view to facilitating positive development in the long term, a prospective assessment of what the future holds is needed, so as to enable the City to take proactive measures, instead of finding itself forced to react in the heat of the moment. Within this context, one also needs to assess the megatrends – both domestic and international – that will have an impact on the space, such as globalisation and the shift from industry to knowledge society (with production jobs being moved to the east).
As such, it is reasonable to re-examine the use of the largely developed site every 10–15 years (what stage is the city at? What are the future challenges? How can a plan be used to meet those challenges?). Such an approach is ideal during periods of profound disruption.
In our current period of great prosperity, during which the constraints on our city's growth are becoming apparent through rising numbers of inhabitants, jobs and commuters, the City of Luxembourg has chosen to formulate an "urban development concept". This concept aims to ensure the city is operational, functional and successful in every way for the future. The urban development plan addresses each and every factor that has an impact on the urban area (housing, traffic infrastructure, etc.) and local development issues (healthcare facilities, schools, etc.).
This urban development concept aims to:
- identify areas of conflict and existing fields of action;
- pinpoint medium-term challenges;
- organise the multitude of ongoing projects, requisite measures and concept proposals, and align them with one another ("record" the existing and new components in the urban development process; where does internal municipal competition pose a risk? Which projects mutually enrich one another?);
- identify where there is some leeway and define demographic development targets;
- Identify key projects and outline a roadmap for the coming years (how can urban development in particular be spurred on? What are the obstacles that need to be overcome? On what basis should the city of 2020 be developed?).
The urban development concept provides a framework for municipal development over the next 10–15 years. As such, the concept aims to be holistic in its comprehensive strategic focus, identifying key projects that are vital for the prosperity and viability of the entire city. In practice, this means embarking on a population-centred philosophy (e.g. "developing existing areas before developing outward"), determining areas for future expansion to accommodate housing and industrial activities, the components of smart traffic management, alternative sites for important development projects (e.g. the university), starting points for the development of areas that require urgent action (e.g. Gare district), and ways in which to improve quality of life in residential areas (expanded urban distribution systems, quality accommodation and leisure options). The urban development concept does not explicitly address details such as the construction of individual pedestrian crossings or the need to renovate specific buildings, as its vast scale means it is general in nature. The content of the district master plans should not be viewed as "lost", because this content is part of the wider "Luxembourg City Urban Development" effort. This urban development concept focuses instead on the overarching guiding principles over the medium and long term, as well as on the key projects of this development effort, and offers a practical overview of the universal conclusions drawn from the district master plans.
Generally speaking, the urban development plan is a compromise, which tries to reconcile the city's diverse usage requirements with the spaces that are potentially available. Thus, it involves creating the framework for a functional, viable city.
This urban development concept represents a vision for what Luxembourg City could be by 2020. Correspondingly, the scope of action is immense. The initial steps proposed are not achievable overnight, but the essential thing is to lay the groundwork today in order to avoid development missteps in the future. The aim is to focus on gradually building the city of the future. To accomplish this, there are measures that can and must be taken relatively quickly, such as those for which the framework conditions must be created immediately in order to be able to produce an effect in the medium term (train/tram), and others that require subsequent development.
The concept's long-term focus does not allow for the definitive assessment of certain developments. As such, any shift in the general conditions and all currently unforeseeable changes will naturally necessitate corrections. This urban development concept is not a "recipe" to be stringently followed from today until 2020. Instead, the situation must be continuously monitored and the concept must be modified, retained or fine-tuned as needed to ensure it remains suitable in the face of changing circumstances.
This urban development concept is the culmination of several years of work, including a number of overhauls and feedback procedures. It comprises this document (urban development concept with texts and plans) and the district master plans for the individual Luxembourg City districts. The basis for this concept was the report on urban development (September 2003) which gave an account of the status quo in the form of a comprehensive summary that showed current trends and highlighted strengths and areas for improvement, and discussed outlines and objectives. This report, though, was not Luxembourg City's first foray into urban development; rather, it should be considered a pivotal component of the continuous process that is typical of urban development.
As early as 31 January 2000, the mission statement by the College of Aldermen expressed the desire of the political leaders of Luxembourg City to take a closer interest urban development. In the years since, a Luxembourg urban development plan concept has been drafted, a seminar on urban development and the regional plan has been held to share experiences with experts from similar foreign cities (Bern, Heidelberg and the Nantes region), a round-table has been organised with a plenary discussion, and the regional plan for the centre-south part of the country (plan régional "Centre Sud") has been established as part of a joint initiative with the minister for land use planning (ministre de l'aménagement du territoire). This important preliminary work should make it possible to break new ground and consider the territorial and functional overlaps, which are especially substantial between Luxembourg City and the "Centre South" region.
The drafting of district master plans was carried out in a separate step in 2003–2004, and facilitated analysis and planning at district level. The detailed analysis at district level also functioned as a benchmark for direct and intensive citizen participation, which is critical for the acceptance and support of ongoing urban development (identification!).
Due to the myriad of urban development phases and partial, yet complex, relationships between different fields (e.g. between population growth and traffic), as well as the various spatial criteria (ranging in scale from district level to the international stage), and especially due to the size of Luxembourg City, it was fitting to involve citizens at district level as the plans will affect their immediate living environment. Experts from each neighbourhood are generally familiar with the strengths, weaknesses and needs inherent in daily life in their area. In addition to making theoretical plans, it is also possible with such consultations to better evaluate actual needs. Participation took place through a questionnaire delivered to all mailboxes and through workshops, called "workshops of the future", in which citizens could participate as part of the survey. The results were processed by various planning departments and applied to the district master plans based on their evaluation.
The district master plans are the foundation for the urban development concept, as they examine the various city districts in detail. They offer a detailed overview of the status quo and ultimately identify fields of action and projects "from the comprehensive point of view of the city", but at times they may contradict one another.
The starting point for the global concept lies in the problems and action points listed in the district master plans. These are supplemented and further developed in light of the long-term needs of the city as a whole, as identified by city planners. The district master plans, with their partial concepts that are specific to certain neighbourhoods, are part of the global concept. However, the difference in scale creates a gap between the district master plans and the urban development concept: the global concept does not resolve all the problems and questions raised in the master plans; nor does it go into detail (e.g. pedestrian crossings, layout of spaces, etc.).
Moreover, the district master plans should be considered "databases" for later, compulsory plans. The content set out is an excellent foundation for the future development of planning proposals.
In addition to the district master plans, the global concept also includes higher-level plans – in particular, the integrated traffic and land use planning concept, the "Centre South" regional plan, national plans including the land use planning master schedule (programme directeur d'aménagement du territoire) and corresponding sector plans, and the activities planned across the Greater Region. The corresponding documents were assessed for this purpose, and meetings were held with leaders in different sectors. (Inversely, in the future, the urban development concept will need to be considered within the framework of the above plans, based on "countercurrent principle").
In effect, the urban development concept is not a compulsory plan. It should be understood as a cross-section view and an essential strategic planning tool to be used by Luxembourg's planning system, offering development recommendations. It is an informal plan that serves as a framework for other compulsory plans. Similarly, the urban development concept is merely a component, rather than the end result, of the urban development process. The urban development concept requires consistent implementation in compulsory plans and projects.