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A 2nd Chance for the Spinnbau in Chemnitz: an Interview to Thomas Mehlhorn, City Planning Office, City of Chemnitz

14 December 2017

The focus of the participating cities is the revitalization of large urban brownfields and vacant buildings. Chemnitz, with its more than 150 years of industrial history, is also involved in the network. As part of the network, the Saxon city is looking for long-term usage concepts for the former Spinning machinery industry . Thomas Mehlhorn, project coordinator at the City Planning Office in Chemnitz, explains in an interview what makes the property special, what challenges and visions there are and how Chemnitz benefits from transnational exchange.
(Picture by Kristin Schmidt)

As local project coordinator of the 2nd Chance Network, Thomas is in charge of the project management dealing with organisation of working group meetings, participation in thematic meetings, financial management, reporting to ULG members, at national and network level and with the implementation of the integrated action plan for the giant industrial heritage site Spinnbau.

Take a look to our 2nd Chance Partners Brochure to read more about our the Spinnbau and the strategy for the reactivation of the site.


@City of Chemnitz

Why have you decided to take part in the 2nd Chance Action Planning Network?

The City of Chemnitz has a council mandate to actively participate in work that´s tied to the EU. The Urban Planning Department decided to take part in this transnational project to enrich its planning culture with the URBACT method. In addition, EU-funds can be used to target typical urban problems in Chemnitz, which corresponds to our central development strategy.

Why did you choose as the target building the Spinnereimaschinenbau (“Spinning Works”)?
As a former industrial complex, the “Spinning Works” could be a model for the revitalisation of the city's centrally located traditional commercial sites. Chemnitz has a lot of cultural heritage in industrial buildings and there is potential for inner-development, mainly located in such derelict sites and vacant buildings. In addition, the “Spinning Works” provides a good foundation. For example, there is an overall development plan for the neighbourhood of Altchemnitz which can consolidate the continuous development of the project implementation.

@City of Chemnitz

What are the toughest challenges in reactivating your Target building?

The first challenge is the ownership.The ”Spinning Works” is privately owned. However, many of the buildings within the network are owned by public authorities. The main focus is to balance the city´s urban development interests with those of the private owner and to find a common denominator for the further reuse of the building. The second challenge is that the reactivation of giant underused premises and vacant building complexes is a time-consuming process which cannot be completed within a short period of time, and only with a step-by-step plan. The third challenge is the present and future requirements of the building complex. In particular, we must determine the building’s suitability to be adapted for modern usage, building and technical equipment and energy efficiency standards.

Do you think that the URBACT method of participative action planning represents added value for the reactivation of your 2nd Chance target building and your institution?

The URBACT method definitely offers added value because it is building capacity in the municipality and among the public and private stakeholders, and it is aiming to create binding commitments that enable action planning for common cooperation. This is also the overriding objective: to jointly set up the integrated action plan, to define it and ultimately implement it in a collaborative way. In addition, it also has added value for the buildings, as it is possible to find out what potential the building has and what prospects it offers. For institutions, especially the City of Chemnitz, it helps to initiate a dialogue between the local group members.

Would you replicate this approach in similar cases? What would you do differently?

Yes, further testing of the approach would be desirable. Further steps can be taken to see whether this approach can be used and expanded in the future. Stakeholders or contractors who bring their own formats and instruments into the process can then also implement these tools in other projects.

The application of the method should not be too academic. However, the instructions for the application of mind tools should include more guidelines which explain how to apply the knowledge in practice and with the local group. I´d contract a ULG coordinator and/or facilitator for creativity techniques for selected ULG meetings.

Have the tools, examples, methods and approaches you got to know through the 2nd Chance network been helpful for you and your institutions? Which were particularly helpful for the reactivation of your target building?

Yes, the ULG toolkit which provides recommendations for the composition and assessments was helpful for me. The financial tool (1) “Costed Options Appraisals”, which offers a comparison of different types of uses and thus the most economical alternative, was particularly helpful for the project. Furthermore, (2) "Rough Checks” (feasibility studies, Brandenburg Germany) helped to find out where relevant rehabilitation and inventory assessments are necessary.  The many good practice examples (3) of the other partners also helped us very much. For example, we learned a lot about the cultural reuse of buildings and building complexes from Maribor, Slovenia.

Do you try to finance (some) actions related to the reactivation of your Sleeping Giant with ERDF, national or regional funds? If, how do you do so?

Yes, we use the financing possibilities with the ERDF from the regional programme section "Sustainable Urban Development" as the target building is in the ERDF funding zone. Some of these measures are already supported by such funding. Examples include the smart bridge student project and the energy concept for Altchemnitz.

Do you try to acquire alternative funding for the reactivation of your target building?

Yes, an overview of subsidies has been developed on topics of energy efficiency (e.g. KfW programs) and business support.

What kind of general social, ecological, economic, etc. opportunities do you see through the reactivation of the vacant buildings in your city?

In my opinion, there are the following opportunities for Chemnitz:
• Stabilisation of neighbourhoods, application of new common governance structures
• Tapping inner-development and energy potentials
• Improvement of street- and cityscape
• Increase of commercial, cultural and social uses, create space for creative entrepreneurships

@Tim Piagemann

Several  actions has been developed during last two years in the framework of the 2nd Chance project as temporary uses of the Sleeping giant Sinnebau, as the third edition of the Wolkenkuckucksheim a festival held in August for the reactivation of the site.

From the 11th to the 13th of August, “ the Spinnerei was a pastel colored playground for all cultural philanthropists, sound artpornographers, kitchen philosophers, creative podologists and a plenty of birdwild bird jokes.
But particularly for music: it was used differently, high, skilfully, delicate, wild, discoid, spherical, laborative and elaborated. The Wolkenkuckucksheim was not only the lovingly woven utopia, but also the newly discovered superband, which no one knows yet, democracy and anarchy! “


Local Website address:
Social Network website address:

--> More information on the project in native language on the Local Flyer: 

--> Read the interview in Local Language from the German National URBACT Point!


12 Mar 2018


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