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Downtown Höchst Support Program

Revitalization of downtown Höchst as a residential and business district

Topic:
Urban revitalization, Commerce
District: Local district:
6
Size of area:
area covered by the master plan about 57 ha
Project management:

Ms. Anne Lederer
fone: +49 (0)69 212 34403
fax: +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. After running for ten years, in 2018 the support program was extended for a further five years, whereby the emphasis was changed.

The City Council resolved in mid-2018 its “Guidelines to Support the Redesign of Commercial Ground-Floor Areas as well as Upgrade the Business Environment in Downtown Höchst”, which replaced the existing support guidelines for subsidies for modernizing existing housing. After almost two and a half years, the guidelines were partly changed and adjusted on Dec. 10, 2020 on the basis of experiences gained in the consultancy process. Alongside clarifying content, the grants available for modenrizig facades of non-listed buildings were increased.

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 Birgit Gröning 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
Profiling/branding
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.

Support by grants

On the basis of the guidelines to promote the redesign of commercial ground floor areas and to upgrade the business environment in downtown Hoechst, grants can be made to private and public applicants.

Measures for existing buildings

The central element of the Downtown Höchst Support Program is to provide grants for measures to redesign commercially used ground-floor properties. Financial incentives for investments are destined to help ground-floor commercial spaces become more appealing, shore up existing usages, and eliminate vacancies. Conversion and extension measures to modernize and upgrade commercial ground-floor properties including the establishment of operations that strengthen the central function of downtown Höchst are eligible for support. Moreover, funding can be provided to assist in the restoration of the frontage of ground-floor commercial properties, including measures to restore, replace or remove ground-floor commercial frontage with a view to enhancing the look of the streets – and this also extends to advertising infrastructure.

Grants have already been forthcoming or prepared for various measures. For example, support in meeting the conversion and modernization costs has been provided for the relocation of the Stage & Musical Academy Frankfurt to Königsteiner Strasse 17.

Measures in the public space

Measures in public downtown space are eligible for support if they serve to enhance the business environment. A distinction is made here between measures for surface areas (e.g., greening a space) and street furniture (e.g., planters).

The “Summer Campaign Area” on the Main riverside received a grant (for further information click “Other current projects”).

Joint community activities

In addition to building measures and measures in the public space, grants can also be provided for joint community activities. The organization and realization of events and measures by private and public initiators that contribute to improving downtown Höchst’s image are eligible for such support.

To date, funding has been granted, among others, for the Digital Vacancy Exchange (for further information click “Current projects”), the Christmas illuminations on Dalbergkreisel, Dalbergstrasse and Hostatostrasse as well as the Spring Creative Tour.


Facade guideline

The modernization advisory team has drawn up guidelines with regard to the subsidy of enhancement measures for the ground-floor frontage of commercial premises. Using existing buildings in Höchst, the guidelines outline which alteration work is suitable for enhancing the shop fronts. The refurbishments served as the basis of a workshop on October 19, 2019, to which all building owners and operators of commercial ground-floor facilities were invited. Using the sample images prepared, suitable enhancement strategies were discussed and a guideline for facade design formulated.
The guideline was published in 2020 an illustrated brochure and serves as a visual aid with regard to advice on the support program.



Current projects

Digital Commercial Vacancies Exchange

The district management office had already developed a digital commercial vacancies exchange. The instrument simplifies vacancy and commercial property management and is attractive in particular for the users. The Commercial Vacancies Exchange enables people seeking properties to immediately see on an interactive map whether there are suitable commercial spaces available in Höchst. They can then contact the owners directly or through the district management office. Owners can, in turn, enter their properties for lease on the platform and thus attract potential tenants more easily. Moreover, general inquiries by interested parties can be processed through the exchange. Indeed, it also offers information on possible grants for private investments in the framework of the Downtown Hoechst Support Program. The Digital Commercial Vacancies Exchange if a joint project of the non-profit Pro Höchst e.V. and the district management office; funding stems from grants for joint communal activities as per the relevant guideline. The exchange is hosted on the existing Pro Höchst Website: https://www.pro-hoechst.de/gewerbeflaechen/.

Local mobility and parking space study

An important measure as part of the Downtown Höchst Support Program is to commission an integrated study to promote local mobility and improve the structure of parking spaces in the downtown zone. Local mobility is understood here as non-motorized transportation, meaning above all pedestrian and cycle flows in the context of the various districts and quarters downtown. Not only environmental aspects play a role here, but explicitly also the fact that forms of mobility that are compatible with urban life stimulate the development of vibrant district centers. As part of a local mobility concept, the focus is on identifying the different user interests and evaluate them while factoring in the specific requirements.
Moreover, parking space is a topic that sparks a particularly large number of conflicts and leads to lots of criticism and discussions. The second module of an integrated approach to be outlined in the study will therefore initially be on parking space provisioning and actual usages and/or demand, and measures will then be specified in particular for a more functional structuring of stationary vehicles and better communication of available spaces. No classical traffic concept will be devised for this integrated local mobility and parking space study, and instead support will be brought in from a specialist office in an iterative process together with the responsible authorities, public entities, and departments and also with public participation.
The expected result will be a package of measures for downtown Höchst of which if at all possible the first measures that can be realized in the short term will be executed during the life-time of the Downtown Höchst Support Program.

In February 2022 a specialist practice “planersocietät” was commissioned to compile the integrated local mobility and parking space study. It commenced work in March 2022 and activities are scheduled to be completed in early 2023.

The practice’s efforts will be accompanied by several public participation sessions.

Feasibility study Königsteiner Strasse (incl. Mainberg)

Königsteiner Strasse requires a new lease of life in order to strengthen its function as downtown Höchst’s key high street and as a place where people meet and greet. This new lease of life can only be successful if it brings onboard property owners and businesspeople as well as the Höchst public. In particular, when defining the shape the redesign is to take, the Mainberg area between Bolongarostrasse and the riverbank was to be included, as it constitutes the shortest route between Königsteiner Strasse and the riverside, which is so popular with locals and visitors alike. As part of the Support Program defining this new lease of life and a dialog-based planning process will both be initiated and dedicated to exploring the potential for a makeover of Königsteiner Strasse. As a first step, a feasibility study was commissioned from Planungsbüro Weber – Stadtplanung und Verkehrsplanung that is intended initially to analyze the status quo.


The draft feasibility study was concluded in the second half of 2020. First of all, it features an analysis of the status. The focus is on both surfaces, furnishings, lighting, greenery, special-purpose uses – such as outdoor hospitality or articles outlets – and the traffic situation (including parking spaces). The analysis was followed by compiling a concept for the measures. On the one hand, this highlights measures that can be realized swiftly or at little expertise. Given the design and functional shortfalls and the state of the built structures on Königsteiner Strasse, the study suggests that a long-term significant improvement is only possible by completely reshaping the surfaces and introducing a new zoning concept that does justice to the character of a pedestrian zone. For this reason, the study presents an initial scenario for a comprehensive and/or long-term redesign of Königsteiner Strasse and Mainberg.

The study will be presented to the public. At the entry level, initially attention was drawn to the project locally and an introduction to it provided. To this end on Sept. 2, 2021, an info-booth was set up on Königsteiner Strasse. Moreover, locals were encouraged to provide suggestions and comments – among other things by a leaflet that was dropped in all letter boxes.

However, the extensive redesign requires lengthy a planning and preparation lead time and it will no longer be possible to complete this within the framework of the Downtown Hoechst Support Program. For this reason, an assessment is currently under way to establish whether short-term measures can improve the functionality of the surfaces and giving them a unified look. As soon as there are further findings in this regard, they will be presented to the public along with the Königsteiner Strasse Feasibility Study in the context of a presentation and discussion event.


Sponsored mobile benches: © Nassauische Heimstätte, photo: Stefan Krutsch

Mobile benches for downtown Höchst

There are fierce discussions in many districts and quarters about seating in public spaces. A lack of outdoor benches, for example, deprives precisely families with small children or senior citizens of an opportunity to tarry a while when shopping or out for a walk. If there are benches, they often also get used at night and there’s then the danger that they develop into a meeting point for people stirring up trouble. Corresponding conflicts have arisen with regard to the benches on Königsteiner Strasse and in neighboring shopping streets such as Hostatostrasse. As the result of structured conflict moderation, in which, among others, Höchst’s senior citizens’ initiative, local inhabitants and shop owners participated, in addition to the “colorful benches” installed back in 2017 an agreement was reached to install mobile benches as an additional service. These mobile benches are destined to enable visitors to Königsteiner Strasse to relax during daytime but cannot be used at nighttime. The idea arose during a workshop of having businesses in the shopping streets in Höchst act as sponsors of the benches. During the day, the businesses thus place the benches outside their stores for anyone to use and when the respective store closes place the benches back inside the store safe and sound until the next day. Downtown Höchst was able to benefit from the local creative industry when it came to developing the benches. Design and furniture studio keinStil. In Höchst’s Kranengasse had already collated ideas for a mobile bench. These were then developed into the “urban-k” prototype. The bench can be moved as if it were a wheelbarrow, which enables it to be put in place swiftly and flexibly. At night, it can be stored in a store without taking up much space. At the same time, the bench can be used by its sponsors for advertising.

Benches have already been put in place in Königsteiner Strasse, Hostatostrasse, Bolongarostrasse, and in Badstubengase. The search is on for additional patrons in downtown Höchst.


 


Other current projects

Construction fence on Ettinghausenplatz, © Nassauische Heimstätte

Supporting the redesign of Ettinghausenplatz

The plan is in coming years to redesign the Ettinghausenplatz square in the framework of the “More Beautiful / Schöneres Frankfurt” program. The site has a long and colorful history of great significance to Höchst. Town wall, fortified turret, porcelain waste pit, and, finally, from 1805-6 seat of the Höchst synagogue, the second new build of which was destroyed in the course of the Night of the Crystals in 1938.

In this context, in 2020 archaeological excavations were conducted on the square. After completion of the excavation, the square was temporarily sealed again with a simple cover of asphalt. An open-space planning competition was launched in 2021-2 to solicit ideas and concepts for a new design for the square that also factored in the archaeological findings. At its meeting in March 2022, the competition jury chaired by Dr. Rena Wandel-Höfer from Saarbrücken awarded Frankfurt’s Meixner Schlüter Wendt architectural practice together with Wetzlar’s KuBuS Freiraumplanung the 1st prize.

Precisely given its history, Ettinghausenplatz is of great importance to many Höchst natives. As part of the Downtown Höchst Support Program, all Höchst citizens were therefore given an opportunity in an open participation format prior to the competition to submit ideas for the future character of the site. Documentation of the different suggestions and the debates served as inspiration for the practices that submitted entries. After the competition, an information event was also held, and the award-winning works and all entries went on display for several weeks in Höchst’s municipal library.

Until the square is redesigned, post-competition countless procedural steps are still necessary (planning, political discussion, tender for the construction services, etc.). During this time, the square offers much potential for an interim use.


Riverside summer activities zone

Riverside summer activities zone, © Nassauische Heimstätte

Since its redesign, the North bank of the River Main below the Old Town has evolved into a central location in downtown Höchst. What was hitherto lacking was an area which had the right surface and was duly prominent as to be suitable to host smaller events and activities. In this context, local initiatives and institutions in this district of Frankfurt, among them Initiative Frankfurt West, Tanzschule Weber and the director of Verwaltungsstelle Höchst, floated the idea of a “summer activities zone” on the riverbank.

The idea of the summer activities zone was realized in 2020 on the Main riverbank between Ochsenturm and the playground: The City of Frankfurt Planning Dept. shouldered the financing as part of the Downtown Höchst Support Program, while the Parks Dept. handled realization of the surface, and the District Management office coordinated use of the area. On June 19, 2020, the zone City Councilor Mike Josef officially handed over the area to the citizens for Höchst for them to use. The zone is intended for classical summer activities for which firm ground is needed beneath your feet, such as dancing, sports, etc. The zone can in future be used spontaneously by anyone interested but can also be reserved for one-off or regular events. To this end, a calendar has been uploaded on the Pro Höchst https://www.pro-hoechst.de/hoechst-aktiv/hoechst-freizeitbewusst/


Working parties

In the wake of the District Workshop in 2019 four working parties were set up which on a proactive and ongoing basis address topics relating to downtown Höchst.

The “Enhancing the Market / Marktplatz & Market Hall” working party concerns itself with ideas to expand the offerings in the market, to better advertise the market, to reorganize traffic flows on market days (access, parking spaces) and to redesign Marktplatz. The basis of all this, and all members of the working party concur, is that the market had great potential for Höchst and that the existing offerings must be maintained.

The objective of the ”Urban Gardeners” working party is to make the urban spaces and plazas in Höchst greener specifically from the viewpoint of urban development in line with climate change. Moreover, the working party also feels it very important to create greened spaces typified by great biodiversity (e.g., that encourage bees) and where people gladly spend time. It seeks to encourage local inhabitants to participate in the various gardening activities and to involve local welfare and education institutions as sponsors for plants. The first plans will be realized on Höchst’s market square.

The Altstadt Civid Association has for some time now put the topic of “Garbage and Cleanliness” on its agenda and has also actively contributed on the subject at the District Workshop and other events. This working party focuses on illegal dumping of heavy garbage or household waste in the green spaces in downtown and also on the current garbage collection routines and seeks to develop solutions in consultation with the specialist municipal departments.

The “Cycling” working party wants to improve the situation for cyclists in Höchst and make life safer for them. The plan is for Höchst to become a district in which people often and gladly use bicycles and where they can easily reach everything by bike. In this regard, the working party addresses various issues, such as the safety of cycle paths, the procurement of a cargo bike for Höchst and debating local authority and regional plans from a cyclist’s viewpoint.