The conversion of Vienna's Mariahilfer Straße into a meeting area was the prestigious project of former Green Deputy Mayor Maria Vassilakou. The concept of pavement and road was rejected, from now on motorists and pedestrians should share the same area. Vassilakou struggled to get through the project. Her toughest opponent was the Economic Chamber. Four years have passed since then. Four years in which the House changed its mind.
The occasion is the transformation of several streets and squares in the city center. In addition to the newly built meeting area in Herrengasse, Michaelerplatz and Rotenturmstraße, traffic is now subdued, Schwedenplatz will be rebuilt, Stephansplatz has already been completed. Total costs amount to EUR 35.1
The benefits of the projects have now been calculated by the chamber's lawyer in a study. The result: Two thirds of urban investments have already moved back to the construction phase, the gross value is therefore EUR 28.9 million. In addition, 277 sustainable jobs were created and paid more than EUR 14 million in wages.
After completed – Rotenturmstraße opens on November 14 – the meeting zones will provide a gross value of EUR 9.1 million annually, the total salary to an additional EUR 4.8 million will rise, 122 new jobs will be created sustainably.
One million euros for each district
For Attorney General Alexander Biach, a clear result: "A successful operation, a role model for other city centers." He even claims: "We recommend that the city invest one million euros in each of the 23 meeting zone districts." Biach's main argument: "A meeting zone pays no later than two years after completion and helps the city increase revenue."
The example of the center he sees as a plan for other Grätzel centers in Vienna, but also for centers in rural communities. They all fight with competitors online retail and retail parks. "The purchasing power should stay in the center and not migrate to Shopping City Süd or Parndorf," says Biach.
The construction of a meeting area usually drives the debate about parking spaces which is kept to a minimum. For Biach, this will no longer be a question in the future: "The boys switch to other types of mobility, the car is no longer important." The question of parking spaces would therefore resolve itself.
Then he adds in the style of a green politician: "We have to reopen the streets, which also benefits the economy." He talks about "Mediterranean well-being oases" with lively ground floor zones where you hang out and walk through.
He cites Michaelerplatz as a groundbreaking example. Here, the first roundabout in Austria was built, to be followed by thousands in the country. Now the square will also serve as an example of a meeting area throughout the country.
The economic significance of city centers will increase, according to the UN forecast, more than 75 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. Even today, it should be noted that "soft" place factors such as quality of life are becoming increasingly important in international urban competition. , explains Biach. And what about the then criticism of Mariahilfer Strasse? "The Chamber of Commerce is changing course," says Biach. And: "The conversion has paid off."