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2018 Retail Trade and Shopping Centers Concept

In March 2021, the Frankfurt City Council resolved to adopt the 2018 Retail Trade and Shopping Centers Concept as the basis for further planning in the sense of an urban development concept as per section 1 para. 6 no. 11 of the German Construction Code. The resolution meant that the 2011 Retail Trade and Shopping Centers Concept was officially updated, whereby the goals of the concept remained fundamentally the same. The focus continues to be on both steering retailing at the traditional central venues and strengthening local supplies throughout Frankfurt.
To serve as a basis for decision-making, a study was commissioned of the Retail Trade and Shopping Center Concept for the City of Frankfurt that assessed real changes in existing retailing and the structure of the shopping centers. The results of the study were discussed in 2016-7 in all 16 Frankfurt districts by the district councils, the trade associations, and interested members of the general public. The comprehensive study can be viewed here.

This documents the City’s planning intentions as regards steering the development of retailing “on the inside and outside”. On the one hand, the resolution has a self-binding function for specific actions by the Municipal Executive and the various municipal authorities. On the other, it is intended to act as a signal, providing greater transparency for retailers themselves as well as retail project operating companies and investors.

The resolution specifically covers:
•    The objectives in developing the retail trade and shopping centers (see Annex 1)
•    The different categories of retail hub (see Annex 2)
•    Spatial definition of the retail hubs (see Annex 3)
•    The specific local range of retailing in Frankfurt (see Annex 4)
•    The regulations governing future location of retailing outlets (see Annex 5)

Like all urban development concepts, the Retail Trade and Shopping Center Concept first becomes binding when realized. In particular, the rules for the Retail Trade and Shopping Center Concept apply for urban planning, construction approvals, relocation advice, and the award of urban properties and to promote its objectives. The most important and obligatory step in realization is to adjust planning law to the goals of developing retailing. An analysis of the status of construction law identified eight commercial estates where there is the greatest urgency for planning approval. The Municipal Executive Council will prepare building zone plans for the districts listed under Annex 6 for approval of construction plans. The approval of building zone plans is destined to exclude retailing or certain types of retail in the districts in questions or sub-areas depending on the requirements.

Since approval of the 2011 Retail Trade and Shopping Center Concept, the Municipal Executive Council have moreover been tasked with reporting each year on larger-scale retail projects for which building approval submissions have been made, building approval granted, as well as resolutions on approving building zone plans that enable the development of new large-scale retail projects. The annual reports are updated, whereby the yardstick now used are the location rules as stated in the 2018 Retail Trade and Shopping Center Concept.

In retailing, change is the constant, and in order to rely on current data the comprehensive survey on which the study was based is gradually being updated by the City of Frankfurt Dept. of Planning itself. Moreover, specialist trade associations act as key advisors for municipal decision-making as regards retailing. For this reason, the existing Working Party on Retailing will be transformed into a consultation committee that meets regularly.

Other modules to be realized include: Standards for the urban quality of retail premises (these are currently being devised by the City of Frankfurt Dept. of Planning), uniform rules for awarding retailing expert reports as well as the establishing an operating company that will in particular handle coordinated operation of ground-floor areas in shopping streets in new city districts.

Additional business promotion activities include owner-organized and owner-financed upgrading of retail stores by setting up Business Improvement Districts (BID), devising strategies to cope with structural change in retailing, steps to initiate strategic vacancy management and an analysis of innovative retail concepts for districts that have poor retailing infrastructure.