Can urban development be compassionate?

Conflicts in building projects and urban development processes are often pre-programmed. The interests of real estate developers, residents and politicians sometimes diverge widely. The reason for this usually lies at the very beginning, when the different interests of the stakeholders are not identified and the make-or-breaks for success or failure are not tracked down.

If the concerns of citizens are only superficially perceived, or not perceived at all, the situation can quickly get out of hand. This is shown, for example, by a planned hotel project at Toscanapark in Gmunden. The reason for the loud resentment is not the hotel that is to be built. In fact, this is more than desirable, because at present Gmunden is only in 15th place in terms of overnight stays in Upper Austria and lags far behind Bad Ischl and St. Wolfgang. The new hotel will complement the neighbouring congress centre and thus further boost tourism. No, the reason for the uproar is the planned hotel car park. It threatens an untouched piece of forest, which until now has been a recreational area with public access to the lake for the people of Gmunden. Politicians are now under pressure to justify their actions. On the side of the planners and implementers there is at best defensiveness or silence. The Standard reported in detail. 

But real estate development can also be more sensitive, urban development can also be different.

The trick is to choose tools that initiate a structured, analytical and unagitated process, such as the network mapping of FASresearch. This allows new paths in urban development to be identified and followed. SORAVIA has taken one of these new paths in the development of the New Lake District in Gmunden. Long before the start of the implementation of the project, SORAVIA dealt in detail with the conditions on site and the needs of the residents, future users and other interest groups. Since 2019, and also in this specific case, supported by the tools of FASresearch.

The Seeviertel looks back on a mixed development history. In 2021, SORAVIA took the helm and plans to revitalise the district with a 4-star superior hotel, flats and commercial space.

In the course of the planning process, SORAVIA commissioned us (FASresearch) with a network mapping. In around 30 in-depth discussions with residents, politicians, city administrators, tourism, gastronomy and trade representatives and other interest groups, the mood of the Gmundner population was captured and processed into strategy recommendations. The perspectives provide information about the expectations, wishes, worries and fears associated with the development of the lakeside district. At the same time, a bridge of engagement is built to the important interest groups.

In the run-up to the development process, the following different moods and needs were recorded, anonymously fed back to SORAVIA and taken into account in the further course of the project.

1. the people of Gmunden are very positive about the development of the hotel with 240 beds, flats with 80% main residence and flats for the active and demanding "Best Agers".

2. The Gmundner city centre restaurants and traders are not afraid of competition, which would diminish their business, but are rather looking forward to the expected enrichment and revitalisation of the entire city.

3. the fear of losing public access to the lake and a too exclusive offer that could exclude users with less purchasing power, as well as the rejection of too much soil sealing with the loss of green spaces.

The social network analysis shows what is possible in the development of the New Lake District Gmunden:  Frictions in the building development process, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction can be recognised at an early stage. This prevents the hardening of fronts between developers, residents and future users. Listening, understanding and taking the concerns seriously creates a climate of perception and respect for those involved and affected.