LUEBECK: The charming German city of Lübeck was lovingly decorated for the holidays with fairy lights and garlands, but the usual festive goings-on was eerily missing this pandemic winter. Across the country, all non-essential businesses had to close by at least mid-January to contain a second coronavirus wave that hit Europe’s top economy.
But many of the “closed” signs in the shop windows in the city center with their characteristic brick facades and magnificent Art Nouveau villas that have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site are “out of business”. The Hanseatic League at 220. 000 inhabitants did not escape the urban plague that has plagued many German city centers for years, but the spread of which was driven by the pandemic. In Lübeck, which is known worldwide for its traditional marzipan and was visited by 18 million tourists in 2019, 20 percent of the sales areas remain empty – a number that has been increasing for several years.
In the middle of the main street, Olivia Kempke points to a broken clothing store: “Some stores didn’t do well before the Corona crisis, and the current drop in sales is the final blow. Kempke, head of the Lübeck management, an association that promotes local urban development, blames a boom in suburban shopping centers for the fact that buyers and ever higher commercial rents were withdrawn who « grabbed merchants by the neck ». .
Money for Urban Planning Another big driver outside of the urban business districts is online shopping, a sector that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Sales in Germany are expected to increase by a third from November to December compared to the previous year. That growth will come at the expense of stores that don’t offer online purchases, the German Retail Association (HDE) said, fearing 50 closings. 000 stores due to COVID-19. The high street store lockdown during the all-important Christmas season is expected to cost them 16. 9 billion euros. 6 billion) for November-December alone, said the IW Economic Institute.
The stricter rules from mid-December to mid-January and likely beyond will certainly drive traders further into the red. Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in November that small business shopping was « a national duty, even a patriotic act, » a message that quickly rang hollowly when shops were forced to close their shutters. The federal government has drastically increased spending to ease the pain and is introducing a new e-commerce tax, the proceeds of which would go to street vendors.
A further 25 million euros are planned for 2021 to support the inner city. The HDE calls for an annual “urban emergency fund” of around 1. 5 billion euros that would rejuvenate cities in the long term. « If we are not careful, we will not recognize our cities after the pandemic, » said HDE President Gerd Landsberg. « We have to take action. “The state emergency aid is added to the program launched by the Ministry of Construction in 2002, with which around 790 million euros are to be provided annually to promote urban redevelopment. Since then 1. 081 German cities benefit.
« Rooms for Life » Hanau in the western state of Hesse was one of the first to benefit from the program. The city, whose landscape bore the bleak mark of hasty post-war architecture, was fundamentally redesigned, with renewed greening and improved access for people with restricted mobility. Hanau built a shopping center popular with buyers, but filled it with independent shops and restaurants instead of the usual franchise chains and installed a new public square.
It is a success story, said Frank Schwartze, professor of urban planning at the Technical University of Lübeck, and called for state funds so that “city centers can adapt to new uses” in order to create “living spaces” and not just consumption. « The old retail trade is not returning, » he said, calling for « places to walk and socialize » while other « forms of mobility became possible ». .
In other words, less parking and more space for pedestrians, cyclists and scooters. Lübeck has just embarked on a similar path last year, with some innovations, including a community garden in the heart of the city, widened sidewalks with seating, open-air cultural exhibitions and roads closed to vehicles. « We have noticed a return of people on foot and a 60 percent reduction in car traffic, » said Mayor Jan Lindenau. “And the citizens have gained in quality of life. ”- AFP
Germany, Coronavirus, Lübeck, Virus
World news – AU – COVID-19 is hollowing out German city centers – Kuwait Times
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– COVID-19 hollowing out German city centers
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