Professur für Internationale Planungssysteme

Zwickau, Sachsen

Shrinkage profile of Zwickau

Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony in Germany. The city’s population was about 93,750 inhabitants in the year 2010 (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2012a). The area of the city of Zwickau comprises about 102.54 km², while the Zwickau County covers 949.30 km².
Zwickau gained importance in former times as a coal-mining city and until today for hosting automobile industry and development. In addition, Zwickau is a university town: the West Saxon University of Applied Sciences of Zwickau (WHZ) has about 5200 students (Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau 2012).

The peak of the coal mining industry was in the 19th Century. As of 1940, the plant decreased its production, and it was shut down in 1978. Today the automotive industry is the dominant and most important economic branch in Zwickau and its surroundings (Stadt Zwickau 2012b), and companies like for example VW Sachsen GmbH are located here. This is based on industrial traditions: companies like Horch, Audi, Auto Union and Trabant played asignificant fole in shaping this sector. Moreover, the city hosts a technical institute (Stadt Zwickau 2012a), which is working on the development of the automotive industry.

Population development and symptoms of decline

The population of the city has changed in recent history. Zwickau’s population growth was attributed to times of industrialization. In 1944, the city’s population reached 118,000 inhabitants by incorporating the municipality of Planitz. Forced relocations in the post-war period from 1945 to 1950 led to a further increase in population (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 12). As in the 1950s, the flourishing coal mining industry led to an in-migration of people to the city, the population peaked at a number of 135,751 inhabitants in 1955 (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 19). Most of these were young families who moved from the surrounding towns and villages of Saxony. Along with an increase in population, many housing units were built in order to integrate the new residents and to compensate for the loss of parts of the housing stock during the war. In the following years, the number of inhabitants decreased steadily to around 120,000 people by the end of the 1980’s (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 19).
German reunification and the political changes in East German cities at the end of 1989 dramatically the development of Zwickau’s population. During following ten years, a dramatic loss of inhabitants took place until the year 1999 (see figure 1).

The increase in population in 1999 of 5.4 % to 104,146 inhabitants can be attributed to incorporating surrounding villages and towns2,1 into the city of Zwickau and its administrative borders. However, this did not change the main trend of population decline the city has to face. Nevertheless, official statistics showed an increase in population (Stadt Zwickau 2006,
19). According to the forecasts by the Bertelsmann Foundation (Wegweiser Kommune), population decline continues: based on population figures of 2007, forecasts estimate a number of 84,860 inhabitants for the city in the year 2020, and only 75,990 in 2030, which resembles losses of 20.7% in that time span (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2012b).
Since 1990, the population in Zwickau decreases dramatically and between 1990 and 2010, the city has experienced a population loss of 29.891 people (around 24%).

Reasons for shrinkage

Main factors of shrinkage in Zwickau are the structural transformations of political and economic nature, which most East German cities underwent after German reunification in 1989/1990. In addition, suburbanization to surrounding towns and villages set in. These changes were motivated by out-migrating younger residents looking for new job opportunities in West Germany, and new chances of a suburban lifestyle. In total, 4550 people out-migrated from Zwickau in 1990.
After 1990, the city applied a policy of promoting small and medium businesses. In addition, Zwickau tries to keep its position as a location of automobile companies, and the city tries to attract firms, like VW Sachsen GmbH. Besides promoting other economic branches, like chemical and pharmaceutical industries, mechanical engineering, and retail, trade and service companies (Stadt Zwickau 2012c). Between 2000 and 2006, Zwickau was able to maintain fair economic stability. However, despite a high GDP per capita of 46,300 in 2004 (the Saxon average lies at 44,900), purchasing power is low and the unemployment rate at 8% ranges far above the federal rate of 6.8%. However, Zwickau’s unemployment is still below the state of Saxony’s rate at 9.4% (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 12-13; Arbeitsagentur 2012).

Challenges of shrinkage in Zwickau

Due to a declining number of working age population and the loss of highly skilled workers, a wide gap in the supply of skilled and young labor force took place. In particular, engineering, natural sciences, and medical care branches are affected (Freistaat Sachsen 2012).
Another factor is the dominant role of the automotive industry and its suppliers. Moreover, the assets and capabilities in research and development do not match the economic strength of the city (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 14ff).
However, since the city has lost its status as a county free city, increasing competition with Chemnitz and Plauen threatens Zwickau’s functional role as a regional center (Oberzentrum), which eventually affects its chances for economic recovery in a negative way. Furthermore, it is not attractive enough for new companies to settle in Zwickau. Although land is available, revitalization of these sites is difficult because of uncertainties in private ownership and contamination (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 41).
After reunification, population losses in the new residences and the housing units of the time 1950 and 1960 (so-called “Altneubaugebiete”) were relatively stable (Pfefferkorn 2003, 82), while population losses in the housing areas with prefabricated constructions (“Plattenbausiedlung”) from GDR time were high, leading to enormous vacancy rates.
Consequently, migration and suburbanization led to a poor utilization of both technical and social infrastructure. As a result, infrastructure in many industrial and residential areas was shut down, for example in the sphere of public transit. Following recent city policies, the oversized infrastructure, originally planned for 120,000 inhabitants, should be cut back by the year 2020 tailored to a number of 84,000 people (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 14). This was accompanied by demolitions, resulting in high costs on the public sector because most of the demolished buildings were owned by public housing companies. Most demolitions were attributed to buildings from prefabricated housing units (Plattenbausiedlungen), which resulted in a highly fragmented urban fabric.

Actions for dealingto deal with population decline and shrinkage

ShrinkageThe city shrinkage was recognized as a challenge and fait accompli for the city of Zwickau. Several actions and strategies were applied to deal with these problems.
According to the strategies until 2002, the city’s strategies focused on increasing its attractiveness by renovating buildings in the centre. However, due to ongoing suburbanization and high vacancy rates in the older settlements areas (Plattenbausiedlungen), strategies shifted towards demolishing these buildings and to adapting to a smaller and compact city model.

The city tries to develop several plans in order to deal with the aspects of shrinkage; one is the integrated urban development concept of 1997. It was prepared by the department of economic development and urban development. This concept did not succeed in fulfilling its targets as it was lacking a detailed urban strategic plan (Pfefferkorn 2003, 83f). Another concept was developed in 2006 SEKo ZWICKAU 2020 (Gesamtkonzept). 2020. In order to support economic development and population growth of the city, strategies and measures have been enacted with regard to demolishing demolition of underused structures and to revitalizing the city center. This plan was a good example of collaboration between the public housing companies (GGZ, ZWG and WEWOBAU), suppliers for energy and water management (ZEV and WWZ) and participating departments of the city administration (Stadt Zwickau 2006, 73). The plan developed most recently is the integrated urban development concept 2011 “INSEK Zwickau 2025”. This concept was targeted to dealing with the challenges of shrinking. It can be seen as an update of the concept of 2006 and includes sectoral plans, urban development concepts, and rehabilitation plans (Stadt Zwickau 2012d).

As a result of an estimated vacancy rate of 15% in 1997, urban planners and housing companies arranged a “Housing Policy Forum” (“wohnungspolitisches Forum”) in May 1997. The results included impeding the development of new urban land-use plans (Bauleitplanungen) for multi-story apartments and the development of a concept to improve the social environment in these housing areas. The high vacancy rate in the residential areas has to be accepted as a structural problem, therefore demolition actions were necessary. The federal program “Stadtumbau Ost” (Rebuilding the City – East) started in 2002. According to this program, especially prefabricated-constructions (Plattenbausiedlungen) which had suffered a loss of over 40% of its population in recent years, were demolished (Der Zwickauer 2012). Vacancy rates were particularly high in the districts “Eckersbach” and “Neuplanitz”. In 2010, approx. 5060 housing units were demolished in Eckersbach and approx. 1900 in Neuplanitz. In this context, the housing companies played an important role, because – as main property owners - they were responsible for 80% of the demolition actions until 2010. By 2015, approx. 12,000 units will be demolished. For this propose, private property owners are encouraged to take part in this process, while the housing companies cannot bear all costs of demolition actions alone (Pfefferkorn 2003, 83 f).

Urban restructuring strategies do not only include demolition actions, but also solutions like partial dismantling, which mean in this case the reduction of the height of buildings of five or six floors to two or four floors. In addition, strategies aim at stabilizing older residential areas by improving the social environment, the transformation of vacant areas to green spaces, and reusing some buildings for different functions e.g. as kindergartens, medical centers, or senior citizens clubs (Bundestransferstelle Stadtumbau Ost 2012).

Additionally another programs were initiated to deal with the problems of shrinking; some of these programs tried to focus on improving the social environment of some neighborhoods like the Program “Social City” from 1998-2005 for developing the city quarter Eckersbach. The title of the project was: Municipal Network - Diverse citizen participation in the residential area of Zwickau-Eckersbach.

Another strategy was incorporations, which had been mentioned earlier in this chapter.

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