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23 August 2018 -

In 2040 the Überseeinsel will be the quarter where people will want to live and work

New harbour district

The course has been set on the south side of the Europahafen for a new urban development jewel – the Überseeinsel, the 15-hectare former Kellogg’s site. The central location close to the water within the 41-hectare Europahafen-Süd district and the historic industrial buildings form the backdrop for a model and future-oriented quarter. The investor in what was once the Kellogg’s area is Europa Immobilien GmbH, represented by Dr Klaus Meier. In an interview, he talks about opportunities, challenges and visions for the Überseeinsel.

Dr. Klaus Meier, Geschäftsführer der Überseeinsel GmbH
© WFB/Frank Pusch

Dr Meier, the urban development project Überseeinsel is on everyone’s lips at the moment. Which area does it concern exactly?

The Überseeinsel is part of the larger Europahafen-Süd area, namely the former Kellogg’s plant. The entire Europahafen-Süd district is bordered by the Europahafen in the north and the Weser in the south. This is a 41-hectare peninsula – meaning it’s a really special location, surrounded by water on three sides. The US company Kellogg's was located on one 15-hectare sub-section for over 50 years, producing cornflakes among others; there are lots of sheds and industrial buildings. After the plant closed in November 2017, a new situation arose. A sustainable concept for the future was required. The pre-studies still had the working title “Europahafen Südseite” – today, we talk more fittingly about Europahafen-Süd and the Überseeinsel.

At the end of May, you and the City of Bremen – represented by Dr Joachim Lohse (Senator for the Environment, Construction and Traffic) – signed an urban development agreement to develop the Überseeinsel. This took place at a special joint meeting of the urban deputations for the environment, construction, traffic, urban development, energy and agriculture, as well as for the economy, labour and ports. Which contents and key points are set in the Agreement, which concrete plans and targets?

It’s all about a rough framework for the next few years. On the one hand, it describes the results of the urban development competition. As an investor, Europa-Immobilien GmbH also acknowledges the results of the pre-studies and says this is how we want to build. This relates to the type and extent of the buildings, for example, the height. The Agreement also regulates that kindergartens, one primary and one secondary school are desirable and areas have to be provided accordingly. Furthermore, the rough relationship of residential and working space to public use is outlined.

Where there any reservations when developing the Agreement or other barriers to be overcome?

There was a great coincidence of interests among the signatories. It really was a very pleasant negotiating process. Which is remarkable, because in business life agreements are normally fiercely negotiated, different interests and prices negotiated hard. That was not the case here due to the concurrent interests of the Senators for the Economy, Labour and Ports and the Senator for the Environment, Construction and Traffic.

To what extent is the master plan for the Überseestadt taken into account in the Agreement?

The master plan Überseestadt forms the basis, of course, but didn’t originally make any statements about the Überseeinsel. In this respect our agreement is an update, which, however, needs further specifics, of course. But both sides are aware of this. The next steps are a more specific framework plan and then qualified and detailed construction plans for various subsections.

Which architectural firms are those and how was the competition organised?

The aim of this competition wasn’t finding a single winner but a draft that several firms should take part in from the outset. Six firms were originally invited: two from Berlin and one each from Bremen, Copenhagen, Rotterdam and Vienna. We approached the matter really internationally, because the idea behind it was that it was essential that Danish and Dutch experience and ideas from urban port development also flowed in. Additional interesting aspects have come from innovative urban port firms from Austria and Germany. And last but not least, we badly wanted the local Bremen knowledge of regional architects. We choose three architectural firms to go into the matter in more detail: the group OMP from Bremen, COBE from Copenhagen and SMAQ from Berlin. 

How do the ideas look in concrete terms?

The basic draft has been shaped by the Berlin firm SMAQ. Another focal point came into play from the Copenhagen draft. Because one core of the planning is retaining the Kellogg’s silo facility, which is important from an urban aesthetic point of view. We want to take the integration of the overall architecture on the Überseeinsel from the Danish draft – which fits well in this respect because the plans for the head piece in the Europahafen originate from COBE. It just makes sense that it all comes as one piece.

Modell zur Quartiersentwicklung Überseeinsel
Entwurf des Berliner Büros SMAQ. © WFB/Christine Peters

What contribution did the architects from Bremen make?

The creations for many sub-topics then came from Bremen in particular. Among others this concerns how the structural transition between the Weser and the Europahafen can be created. The quarter development is just as strongly characterised by Bremen ideas, because probably only a Bremen firm really knows what a Bremen family wants and which living needs they have - namely a terrace house with a small garden.

Do want to design the development of the Überseeinsel so it’s interesting for families?

Yes. In fact, one heading of the quarter is “Family”. What that means in plain language is we explicitly don’t want what’s mainstream on the property market today. That would be apartments of between 80 and 120 square metres for couples with no children – in this location it would be particularly expensive and not financeable at all without two incomes. That’s our plan. But it’ll be exciting to see how we can implement this demanding project in reality.

Why is the project so close to your heart and why are you committed to the Überseeinsel and acting as an investor?

Seven, eight years ago, we bought a neighbouring plot of land for our wpd corporate headquarters from Kellogg’s. So we already have a strong geographical connection to this special site. We also agreed an option for what at that time was a large sub-area, because from the beginning we had been able to imagine an extension to our company at just that point. In direct proximity to our core business, at the end of 2017 we founded Immobilien-Projektentwicklungsgesellschaft Europa Immobilien GmbH, which specifically concentrates on the Überseeinsel area. What could emerge from this area, which had had strong industrial character to date? We have been dealing with this question for a year. But we only began the intensive planning in November 2017. The legally-binding purchase agreement was signed in March 2018 and the area was handed over to us on 1 July 2018.

You come from the wind energy sector – how does that fit with the Überseeinsel?

We look for answers to questions. The first question for us is how will we combine the sectors of heating and car driving/traffic with our core business of electricity in the future? We want to demonstrate the intermeshing of these three sectors using the Überseeinsel quarter as an example. In the best case the result will be a CO2-free quarter. Where there’s a lot more to it. This includes integrating public transport and bicycles as well as being pedestrian-friendly. Another very important question for us is how can we design the concept so it’s highly attractive to the people of Bremen? For example, will it be interesting for our employees, who are currently moving to Hude, Oldenburg and Achim because they can only find cheaper homes plus a garden there and so they consciously submit themselves to the longer commute? We’ll only be able to answer all these questions in a few years.

The project could be a model in many respects. What does that mean for the planning?

Our targets are demanding and the implementation is very ambitious. We have to solve a complex dilemma. Sophisticated architecture, expensive land and all that with a benchmark-setting energy structure don’t speak in favour of it being affordable for families. What later might become a model will be decided by emulators and not us.

Aerial photograph Überseestadt 2016
The aerial photograph shows the Überseestadt with the former Kellogg's site which is to be newly developed. © WFB / Studio B

Who are the other players and project participants? What is expected from politicians?

Close cooperation between the construction, education and economics authorities is a huge opportunity to develop great things together. We are just about to set our own team optimally for the project, by the second half of 2018. Initially, we will have six to eight people in the core team, and for special questions we can also draw on some of our colleagues. Then in the next step the relevant project teams come in for the individual sub-projects. We’re already looking forward to cooperating with the administrators and specialist planners.

Keyword timetable. How do the concrete next steps and milestones look?

It’ll be all about the residential development at the beginning, but also new buildings for businesses. We could complete a development plan by the end of 2019 to mid-2020, we’re aiming at a groundbreaking ceremony in 2021/22. Our aim is to start a first large section in this time corridor, or more precisely, about one third of the entire area. The other areas can then be developed overlapping in part, so that the entire construction project could be completed between 2027 and 2030. Ideally, however, the plans for two, three existing properties and a school will be brought forward and the construction plans initiated. We could imagine beginning construction for this at the beginning of 2019. Admittedly, that would be a small stress test for everyone involved because of the tight timeframe, but not inconceivable.

Let's take a look into the future. How do you see the Überseeinsel in 2040 – do you have a vision?

There are no cars and lots of children on the quarter's streets. The quarter is characterised by the pure water of the Weser, clean air and no harmful emissions are given off by the quarter. Small shops, from bakers and hairdressers, through fish mongers, and up to a store for organic and local products, determine the local infrastructure. The Überseeinsel has matured into a sought-after quarter, liveable and popular, comparable with places like the Ostertorviertel, Wachmannstrassenquartier or the area around the Findorffmarkt. In 2040 the Überseeinsel will be the quarter in Bremen where people will want to live and work.

On 29 May 2018, the urban development agreement for the Überseeinsel was concluded between the City of Bremen and Dr Klaus Meier as the representative of Investorengesellschaft Europa Immobilien GmbH. Dr Klaus Meier is the Chief Executive Officer of Europa Immobilien GmbH, Managing Partner of wpd windmanager GmbH & Co. KG and since 24 May 2018, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BLG AG (Bremer Lagerhausgesellschaft).

You will find further information about the Überseestadt Bremen, relocation and marketing, from Dagmar Nordhausen, Tel. +49 (0)421 9600 252, dagmar.nordhausen@wfb-bremen.de and Jons Abel, Tel. +49 (0)421 9600 613, jons.abel@wfb-bremen.de.

Autorin: Kerstin Radtke

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