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Roland Ries: “Strasbourg is becoming a laboratory of Europe”

Strasbourg is not like other cities.

Throughout its history, the city has found itself torn between two countries, two languages and two cultures. This continual toing and froing has, however, given it the inner strength of a city which suffered the pain of the wars of the 20th century and also one which has willingly taken on the habits of this double identity. Chosen in the aftermath of the Second World War to embody the Europe of peace and reconciliation, it has now fully assumed its vocation as the European capital of the future.

In addition to its role as home to many European institutions, Strasbourg is also on the way to becoming a genuine laboratory of Europe.

After many years of shutting our eyes to the Rhine and leaving what effectively became a no man’s land between our two countries, we decided to reshape the city by launching one of the largest urban developments in Europe. The project involves some 1.5 million m² over an area of 250 ha. Managed by a local public company, the Société Publique Locale (SPL) des Deux Rives, the latest stage covers the port, the Coop and the banks of the Rhine

The new development runs from the Heyritz district right up to Kehl in Germany and comprises a number of major worksites, some of which are in the project stage and others under development, while several have already been completed, such as the Heyritz park—one of the very few urban parks to been created over the last few years—the presqu’île Malraux and the Danube eco-district.

Served by the new tram line connecting Strasbourg to Germany, Deux Rives will eventually be home to some 20,000 people. With its waterside apartment buildings, the new Rhéna medical clinic, ample parkland and parkways and the Coop Alsace renovation project, Deux Rives has carved itself out a position as an integral new part of the city. A new district is growing out of the Coop site, driven by a philosophy of inventiveness, solidarity and sustainability. Underpinned by its cooperative culture, the new district will feature creative and social and solidarity enterprises, housing, extensive cultural and leisure facilities, eating places and a nearby urban park running along the old bed of the Petit Rhin.

The new closeness between Kehl and Strasbourg, symbolic of the friendship we enjoy with our German neighbours, is also part of a wider scheme which sets out to renew the city’s links with its past. This was also the underlying purpose behind the application for extending Strasbourg’s UNESCO World Heritage listing to include Neustadt. The new inscription will send a strong signal that Strasbourg’s exceptional architectural heritage does not stop with the Grande-Île, but also extends to Neustadt, a district built by the Germans from 1870 onwards and which forms an outstanding urban ensemble, characteristic of Rhineland Europe, an area which includes Strasbourg as one of its major cities.

Strasbourg’s dual facets have now come together as the historical city links up with the city of the future.

 

Roland Ries

Mayor of Strasbourg,

President of the Société Publique Locale des Deux-Rives.