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Downtown Höchst Support Program

Revitalization of downtown Höchst as a residential and business district

Urban revitalization, Commerce
District: Local district:
Size of area:
area covered by the master plan about 57 ha
Project management:

Ms. Anne Lederer
Telefon: +49 (0)69 212 34403
Telefax: +49 (0)69 212 30731

Project description

Reason for planning
Many people still know the district of Höchst on account of the industrial park on the site of the former Hoechst AG company. Yet Höchst has much more to offer! It has a vibrant old town that boasts Frankfurt’s largest self-contained set of half-timbered structures; these old houses have been protected by a preservation order since 1972. Höchst was a town in its own right until 1928; if you stand on the banks of the River Main what you see is a marvelous historical ensemble consisting of the castle, town wall, the Church of St. Justinus and Bolongaro Palace. For various reasons, Höchst is suffering from dwindling significance, however; this has also spelled a decline in its economic fortunes. Factors that have played a role here are competition from the expanding Main-Taunus-Zentrum shopping mall, the fact that the local authority headquarters has relocated away from the city, and lastly that the main gate to the industrial park has been moved further southward. Yet Höchst offers excellent qualities as a residential and business location which needs to be preserved and expanded in line with the thrust current urban development.

For this reason, based on studies of the district’s structure, the masterplan identified the linkages, deficiencies and opportunities in Höchst. It served as the basis for the 10-year municipal Downtown Höchst Support Program, which the City of Frankfurt put in place in 2006. The City Council approved the support guidelines in 2008.

Development district
The area in question is bordered by Leunastrasse in the west, the River Main and the River Nidda in the south, Russingerstrasse and Bolongarostrasse in the east, and Ludwig Scriba Strasse and the railroad tracks in the north.

Planning objectives
The aim behind continuing the support program support is to strengthen the central function of downtown Höchst in the field of retailing, commerce and services while also augmenting the district’s quality as a housing and business. Quarter for broad sections of the populace.
Alongside its central function as a commercial hub, the following additional functions are key:
• Point of identification
• Cultural center
• Meeting place, center of integration and communication
• Mobility hub
• Place for housing, work, and leisure

Financial incentives for structural investment are intended to make ground-floor commercial premises more attractive, consolidate established facilities, and eliminate vacant premises. The investments will play a role in preserving invaluable urban fabric, enhancing the appearance of the properties, and strengthening the business environment.
In addition to subsidies for measures to redevelop commercially used ground-floor premises, support is also available for measures in the public space destined to strengthen the business environment and communal activities intended to improve the image of downtown Höchst.

Project progress
With the resolution passed by the City Council in 2000 the city executive was commissioned to update the 1990 masterplan, as the problems it highlighted back then have not lessened since. As the basis of this planning, a district transport plan and a parking management concept were drawn up. The City Council approved the 2006 masterplan, when it also passed a EUR 21 million support program for the area defined in the masterplan, with which housing construction and modernization measures were to be financed. To this end support guidelines were drawn up in 2007 and passed in February 2008.

Between 2008 and 2018 those private individuals intending to build were advised by the appointed architect, Ms. Lotte Plechatsch. All in all, advice was provided to the owners of some 400 properties. This led to 281 approvals for a total sum released of about Euros 9.3 million.

Between 2008 and 2011 the City of Frankfurt, with the district of Höchst, took part in the EU’s MANDIE 2008 – 2011 project, which aimed to support and reactivate district centers.

From April 2012 until July 2017, Nassauische Heimstätte Wohnungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft GmbH was commissioned to oversee the project as district manager through its NH ProjektStadt brand. The key focus here is to develop a multi-purpose district center, the areas that needed to be addressed being basic amenities, housing, work, community life, culture, and leisure facilities.

Though the support provided for building measures was highly successful with regard to the preservation of invaluable urban fabric, downtown Höchst still suffers from structural deficiencies. On the basis of an evaluation, the decision was therefore taken to to prolong the support program for a further five years and make subsidies worth 10 million euros available again. The “Guidelines on the Support of the Redevelopment of Commercial Ground-floor Premises and the Enhancement of the Business Environment in Downtown Höchst” have been in force since June 21, 2018.

Following a pan-European tender process, NH ProjektStadt and the firm ammon + sturm were awarded the contract to conduct the district management and provide advice with regard to the modernization of downtown Höchst. The core project team, comprising Dr. Jürgen Schmitt and Jenny Nussbaum from NH, and Frank Ammon from ammon + sturm, can be contacted for advice in the neighborhood drop-in center at Bolongarostraße 135 at fixed times.

Information on the project published by the City Planning Department

More information

District management and modernization advisory teams

The downtown Höchst neighborhood office serves as the center for local activities aimed at strengthening the location. 
All the liaison and advisory services provided by the district management and modernization advisory teams are free of charge and open to everyone.

Höchst neighborhood office, © Nassauische Heimstätte

The brief for the ProjectCity’s district management team is, as a “district agency”, to bring together spaces, people, and ideas. In particular, this includes the following aspects:

“District agency” for the use of ground floor premises
Management of vacant and commercial premises
Help for property owners to find tenants
Help with the search for premises for those interested in relocating to the district
Organization of interim uses for temporary vacancies
Handles activities aimed at image improvement
Motivates property owners and businesspeople to engage in joint activities
Networks social activities
Acts as contact for the subsidy of communal activities
Dialog and participation
Local presence and surgery in the neighborhood office
Function as an “ideas exchange”
Close collaboration with local players
Participation, presentation, and conflict management

The Höchst project team, from left to right: Dr. Jürgen Schmitt (ProjectCity), Anne Lederer (City Planning Department), Frank Ammon (ammon + sturm), Jenny Nussbaum (ProjectCity), © Nassauische Heimstätte

The brief for the modernization advisory team is to advise property owners and businesspeople personally with regard to making structural alterations to and enhancing commercially-used ground floor premises. This includes the following:

  • Advice with regard to identifiable structural and design potentials and shortcomings in existing buildings (use, layout, access, construction, condition and design of the facade).
  • Advice with regard to structural alterations aimed at improving the property’s function as commercially used space and improving accessibility.
  • Advice with regard to measures aimed at improving the private and public environment or at care of the cityscape.
  • In individual cases evaluation and advice with regard to technical and design solutions for the  layout, materials, construction, details, accessibility, energy-related improvements.
  • Advice with regard to the planning, preservation and other approvals required and to the economic viability and plausibility of measures.
  • Help with and advice on submitting applications for construction subsidies in line with the “Downtown Höchst” or other support programs.

Integrated action plan

In a dialogue-based process the district management team will draw up an integrated action plan containing, in addition to an analysis of the overall problem, a development guideline and a package of measures with cost and financing planning for the support period.
With a view to brainstorming and defining objectives, on August 24, 2019 an open district workshop was held in the education and cultural center (BiKuZ) in Höchst. The main issue was: “How can we, together, develop downtown Höchst as a place that functions as a vibrant center for all of us?”. Following an introduction by the City Planning Department, the opportunities and weaknesses, as well as the development opportunities were explained from the point of the view of the ProjectCity district management team and the ammon+sturm modernization advisory team. Subsequently, all those attending had a chance to put an idea or issue forward for discussion in the “concerns marketplace”. Property owners, residents, and representatives of various associations and institutions then discussed the ideas and issues in a lively, communicative, and constructive manner.

Based on the ideas submitted at the district workshop in summer 2019, a suite of measures was developed which the City Planning Department and the district management and modernization advisory teams presented on January 23, 2020 at another citizens’ event that was open to the public.

Citizens’ event in Höchst, January 23, 2019 (1) © City of Frankfurt Planning Department

Based on the ideas submitted at the district workshop in summer 2019, a suite of measures was developed which the City Planning Department and the district management and modernization advisory teams presented on January 23, 2020 at another citizens’ event that was open to the public.

Citizens’ event in Höchst, January 23, 2019 (2) © City of Frankfurt Planning Department

Following the presentation of the set of measures, participants had an opportunity to discuss the results with the project team at various project displays. Alongside displays devoted to the modernization of existing buildings, the public domain and mobility, location, identification, the local community, and involvement, the working groups also had a chance to present their activities and ideas. In the wake of the district workshop, a total of four working groups were set up to address the following issues: enhancement of the market / market square / market hall; urban gardening; garbage and cleanliness; and bicycle traffic.

Facade guideline

The modernization advisory team will draw up a guideline with regard to the subsidy of enhancement measures for the ground-floor frontage of commercial premises.
Using existing buildings in Höchst, the guideline will outline which alteration work is suitable for enhancing the shop fronts.
With the overall situation having been assessed, priorities for Höchst were defined (existing good examples, continuity across the entire frontage, display windows, facade material / change of material, facade color, awnings / extensions / cladding, advertising displays) and subsequently, on the basis of at least one existing shop front in Höchst, one or two “photorealistic” renderings prepared for each priority.
The possibilities outlined in the refurbished facades are based on existing examples and present in as graphic a manner as possible cases of enhancement that can practically be implemented.
The refurbishments serve as the basis of a workshop in October, to which all building owners and operators of commercial ground-floor facilities are invited. Using the exemplary images prepared, suitable enhancement strategies will be discussed and a guideline for facade design drawn up.
The guideline will be published in an illustrated brochure and serve as a graphic aid with regard to advice on the support program.


The phenomenon of increasing vacancies is clearly visible in many cities and neighborhoods. The question every city must keep on asking itself is how vacancies can be avoided and what opportunities exist in this respect. For some years now cities have been resorting to the interim use of vacant buildings and spaces.

This concept envisages people working in the cultural and creative sectors, for example designers, photographers, artists etc., using empty premises for their work for a limited period of time.
As a measure aimed at fighting vacancies and redefining the district the Höchst “Designparcours” was launched on the first weekend in Advent in 2012. It was seen as an opportunity for creatives to personally develop their potential and ideas in a vacant store and present them to the general public. The objective was also to whet the owners’ appetite for the concept of interim use and possibly actually implement in the premises this or that business idea of the creatives. For several days the creatives made use not just of display windows but the entire vacant store. The “Designparcours” has in the meantime become a fixture in the Höchst calendar and takes place twice a year, in summer and winter.

Now in its seventh year, on the weekend of July 6 and 7, 2019 the 14th Höchst “Designparcours” featured a wide range of painting, sculpture, fashion, photography and ceramic. Parallel to the traditional, historical “Altstadtfest” creatives from Höchst and indeed the entire Rhine-Main region presented their work in studios and stores of which they are already tenants, as well as in premises that are currently vacant in downtown Höchst. Every year at the summer “parcours” a Höchst Designparcours Prize worth a total of 1,500 euros is awarded. Jonas Nitsch, a furniture designer from Darmstadt received 700 euros for the 1st Prize, Betty Montarou, who has a ceramic and stoneware studio in Frankfurt/Main won the 2nd Prize and took home 500 euros. The 3rd Prize, worth 300 euros, went to Sabine Henry from Cocon.Design in Oberursel and Antje Parra Mora from Trendgeschick in Frankfurt/ Main.

The next Designparcours will be held on July 4 and 5, 2020. In winter, a Designparcours is planned for November, 28 and 29.

Award of the Höchst Designparcours Prize, © City Planning Department, Frankfurt/Main, photo: Marc Strohfeldt