Cities exchange in Dortmund – how did the former industrial city become greener?

Cities exchange in Dortmund – how did the former industrial city become greener?

1 September 2022

Dortmund, Germany, has utilised innovative nature-based solutions in proGIreg to help revive the post-industrial district of Huckarde, an old coal hub. Cities across Europe were invited to visit the Living Lab to learn from the innovative food forest, aquaponics, biodiverse pollinator habitats, outdoor activity park and green corridors that have transformed the post-industrial neighbourhood around the Hansa Coking Plant and the former Deusenberg landfill.

The fall of the heavy industry in the Huckarde districts resulted in a lot of degraded and polluted areas and high-unemployment, however this opened new avenues for industries in the 60’s such as technological innovation, and in recent decades green innovation through innovative projects such as proGIreg, with more to come in the future! The Huckarde area has a young diverse population, with many families that tend to remain in the district over generations.

Representatives from cities and institutions in Turin, Zagreb, Cluj-Napoca, Kassel, Essen, Heidelberg and Hamburg and many more were welcomed to proGIreg Living Lab In Huckarde, Dortmund by Katja Schnell, Head of the Urban Renewal Department in Dortmund. Over two days the participants got to visit and learn from the nature-based solutions implemented on site.

Photo: Food forest in Dortmund

The food forestWaldgarten’ in the Living Lab consist mostly of edible plants and perennial vegetables, that are easy to maintain together with the local community. The forest was co-designed with local stakeholders, with paths cleared, various plants introduced and a beekeeper included to support pollinator biodiversity. A local association die Urbanisten engages and supports the local citizens on the management of the site. In the context of proGIreg a popular local neighbourhood park is being enhanced with an outdoor ‘gym’, encouraging physical activities, with flower meadows adjacent to attract pollinators.

Photo: Pollinators in action in a flowering meadow on Dortmund

The habitats supporting pollinator biodiversity have also been introduced in the vicinity of local community gardens. This was done by the formation of a citizen-led associationNaturfelder that promotes the creation and use of flower meadows in private and public land, helping to develop and maintain them. Naturfelder is engaging people in workshops, advocating for pollinator protection, spreading knowledge at events and building pollinator hotels.

Two greenhouses with 400m2 space were constructed to enable sustainable food production through aquaponics in the Hansa Coking Plant site, which is currently a dedicated heritage site covering the historical significance of the former coal refinery. The system will be running with rainwater and the food produced on site will be tested to ensure it is free of any contaminants that may still be present on the site.

At the renatured former landfill Deusenberg a walking and cycling path as a green corridor connecting it with Hansa Coking Plant area and central Huckarde is being constructed. This was more challenging than expected due to heavily contaminated soil from the former landfill, which needed to be removed, before path construction could continue.

Throughout proGIreg cities have been consulted to learn from their experience on what factors need to be considered when implementing a variety nature-based solutions. Their responses have been analysed and used to develop a robust framework to help other cities to start planning to introduce nature-based solutions in their urban environments. The workshop in Dortmund had participants utilise this frame in groups to explore their needs, desires and existing opportunities.

Which aspects are crucial for replicating nature-based solutions? According to Dortmund, having plans for the maintenance of a nature-based solutions, from the get-go is crucial to ensure that the solutions are sustainable in the long-term. The workshop participants identified the below key components for success:

·         Combination of interventions (types of nature-based solutions)

·         Collaboration with local associations/NGOs

·         Political will

·         Co-design approach

·         Community support

·         Visibility

In addition to the planning, consultation and construction of the nature-based solutions – monitoring and implementation of the solutions is at the heart of work in proGIreg. The data will be shared to support gathering scientific evidence for the impact of nature-based solutions in the proGIreg database, hopefully ensuring these sustainable and successful building blocks will be utilised in cities across Europe.


Top photo: Workshop participants at the Hansa Coking Plant and proGIreg Aquaponics site in Dortmund

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation action programme under grant agreement no. 776528. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the proGIreg project and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.