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Altena

The city of Altena is located in the German region South-Westphalia, 40 km from Dortmund. Approximately 17.500 habitants live in a valley of the river Lenne, which characterizes the look of the city. The castle of Altena was built in 1108 on top of a hill near the Lenne and is still the main attraction. In 1367 the city was officially founded and prospered due to the iron as available resource of a beginning wire industry. Today Altena supplies 20 % of the worldwide steel-wire industry, especially for automotive products. Special steel sheets are produced for Airbus and Ariane Rocket. Altena is not only famous for its castle and industry, but for Richard Schirrmann a primary school teacher who founded the first youth hostel in the castle of Altena in 1909 and established the youth-hosteling worldwide. In the Museums of the Castle the historical youth hostel can be visited. Furthermore Altena domiciles the German Museum of Wire.

In last decades Altena was known as one of the fastest shrinking cities of Western Germany. To face the challenges of shrinkage like less population, vacancy and lower tax revenue Altena developed a strategy of different measures.

  • The reduction of numbers of employees in municipality as a consequence of declining financial recourses
  • The reduction of public services like swimming halls and schools to reduce public expenditure and to adapt to a declining population development
  • The demolition of vacant buildings to reduce vacancy
  • The strengthening of volunteer’s work
  • The strengthening of tourism and the inner city

The Altena strategy was classified as “Good Practice” in 2017 by URBACT. The main projects which helped to change the image of the city, promoted the city and supported the development in demographic and structural change were the foundation of a volunteers platform “Stellwerk”, the implementations of “Pop-up Shops”, the contraction of an adventure elevator to connect the valley and the castle, general restructuring of the municipality, the refugee aid and the implementation of a new community center. Sustainability, climate protection and the expansion of inter-municipal commercial areas are important factors for development too. Today the number of inhabitants is almost stable and a positive development effect can be noticed. Still there are problems to work out and to change thinking and actions.

Exchanging with and teaching partner cities of the URBACT network Re-growCity on its best practices in tackling decline will boost Altena’s political and strategic drive to have new ideas for its strategy which reflects the social and environmental considerations.

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