Problems of revitalization of post-industrial areas in W堯kiennicza and Cz瘰tochowska streets in Bia造stok.

Wojciech Ho這wnia, Forum Bia造stok Jutra,

I would like to tackle problems related to developing land in Bia造stok delimited by Aleja Pi連udskiego, W堯kiennicza and Cz瘰tochowska streets. It is a site formerly occupied by textile factories owned by Zilberblatt and Marejn, that is currently developed with new apartment buildings and devastated post-industrial buildings. The site is valuable not only due to its historical assets, but also due to its location in the very centre of the city.

South building - former factory

North building

East-south building

The factory complex was erected here by the Zilberblatts at the end of the XIXth century. They constructed modern weaving plants and looms. At the beginning of the XXth century a part of the factory was sold to the married couple of the Marejns, who afterwards took over the entire factory from the Zilberblatts in the 30s of the XXth century. In the year 1938 the factory employed 142 people and was the citys eight factory in size. In 1946 the factory was nationalized and transformed into National Wool Processing Plant no. 34 (Pa雟twowe Zak豉dy Przemys逝 We軟ianego nr 34), which was incorporated at the beginning of the 50s into Manager Sierzan Bia造stok Wool Processing Plant (Bia這stockie Zak豉dy Przemys逝 We軟ianego im. dyr. Sier瘸na). The factory operated under this name until it was wound up in the year 1986.

Recently part of the buildings belonging to the factory complex of the Marejns have been revitalized and devoted for residential and commercial purposes, whereas others, which are mostly idle, are deteriorating.

In order to prevent that a revitalization programme should have been developed a couple of years ago, an architectonic contest for development of the site should have been then announced and the winning project should have been implemented using public and private funds sadly, none of that happened. The reason for that was probably the city authorities misconception about their role in managing the municipal space.

In my opinion the fundamental factor in the economic development of the city is its site (location), understood as a development factor. It can be said that a city is being improved properly when each of its sites, depending on its location in the city's tissue, is optimally utilized for the benefit of the inhabitants. A site in the city may have different functions: it may work, i.e. generate profits from rents, taxes or other various fees, it may be used to satisfy residential, cultural or recreational needs or it may provide services needed for the correct functioning of the city, e.g. by functioning as roads or locations of various municipal and public institutions. A wise city administrator, or the "creator" of the city's development, must manage sites with consideration for historical, sociological, economic and political circumstances provided that they want to manage the city properly and care for its harmonic development.

Since the year 1990 the citizens of Poland have had the power to shape the development of their towns and cities through local self-governments. One of the key problems to solve in Polish cities was to make use of degraded post-industrial structures. In many Polish cities special revitalization action programmes were prepared, which enlivened the economy and brought new life into the walls of old factories or plants. Programmes of revitalization planned, long-term and complex spatial, social and economic transformations aimed at bringing sites out of critical status and leading to the development of local communities - changed entire quarters of Polish cities. In order to revive degraded post-industrial areas the state allocated large funds in the Integrated Regional Operational Programme. Until now Bia造stok has neither implemented any revitalization plan, nor attracted any external capital for revitalization.

Opportunities arising from this type of programmes have not been taken advantage of, which is proved by the premises of the former textile factories in W堯kiennicza and Cz瘰tochowska streets. No revitalization plan covering the entire site was developed and individual structures were sold individually through bids. The development company that purchased the devastated residential buildings encountered great difficulties while attempting a comprehensive renovation of the devastated structures. After some time the company got rid of its problems by handing the buildings over to the company of the wianiewiczowie, which since then has been restoring the original shape of the buildings with reverence and care until today.

It is only fair to say that it is their personal effort and involvement that will lead to a successful completion of the revitalization of the residential part of this area. Meanwhile the City keeps implementing its policy of selling this property piece by piece.

Today, i.e. on 19.01.07 the bid concerning the textile building intended for general commercial purposes was to be awarded. Other factory buildings, which are currently devastated to a large extent and occupied by some retailers and wholesalers, will probably be sold in a similar manner after some time. What will they host, how will it affect the look and functioning of the entire post-industrial complex, what about driveways, parking lots, the surroundings of the whole - and finally what will the city gain from it in terms of optimal use of this area? Probably nothing, only some of useless ruins will disappear from the city centre.

One possible way of making use of the historical and locational assets of the post-industrial area in W堯kiennicza and Cz瘰tochowska streets was presented in the graduate project of Marcin Grygorczuk, a student of the Faculty of Architecture at the Bia造stok Technical University, supervised by architect Bartosz Czarnecki, Ph.D.

Design of new cultural center - former factory in W堯kiennicza street

The main goal of his study was to introduce new functions that would suit the present and future needs of this location. The assumed functional profile of the area, apart from residential and commercial buildings, was to include gallery, showroom, office, education and training functions - in order to attract the largest possible number of visitors to the complex and, in turn, enliven and promote the area. An interesting frontage facing Cz瘰tochowska street was also designed, which sets the entire project in order. The aim of the study was to make a functionally diversified complex be perceived as a uniform one and to make it function as a site tightly incorporated in the city centre and contributing to its permanent development. The course of events showed, however, that these or similar projects remained in the sphere of intentions. A site with a large potential of contributing to the development of the centre of Bia造stok was treated in a way that does great damage to its assets and capabilities. If the city authorities approached it properly, it could have become one of the key elements to the development of the centre of Bia造stok. Is it already too late to take such actions?

I believe that there is still a lot to save, but a change is required in the policy of the city authorities concerning revitalization of post-industrial facilities in Bia造stok. The change must be quick, because despite the rich industrial history of Bia造stok only few of these facilities remained.