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OP-ACT - Interview with the Mayor of Partner City Altena

Edited on

10 February 2015
Read time: 2 minutes

What does the Mayor of Altena think about the participation of his city in URBACT OP-ACT project? OP-ACT project is dealing with the impact of demographic change, deindustrialization and the current financial crisis in small and medium-size cities. After three years of exchange and learning activities, this URBACT Project is coming to an end this spring. In a very interesting interview, Andreas Hollstein, Mayor of the German partner city Altena, talks about the added value the URBACT exchange activities have brought to its city and explains Altena's tourism concept. 

This interview was conducted by Barbara Bühler from the German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development (Deutscher Verband für Wohnungswesen, Städtebau und Raumordnung, DV) which is carrying out the URBACT National Dissemination Point for Germany and Austria.

Dr Hollstein, which are the main challenges for the City of Altena and which strategies did you develop within the frame of the project OP-ACT?

Within OP-ACT, the City of Altena focussed on developing strategies for a sustainable tourism. Already in 2007, Altena City Council agreed on the integrated urban development concept "Altena 2015" which identifies the promotion of tourism as an important field of action. The participation in the URBACT project OP-ACT allowed us to further elaborate on this topic and – in exchange with other European cities – to examine it in more detail. Together with our URBACT Local Support Group we worked out an "Action Plan Tourism" which we are going to implement step-by-step and in combination with other pilot projects such as the ExWost field of research "Cooperation concrete" ("Kooperation kon-kret").

Highly industrialized and famous for the production of steel wire, the City of Altena in the past decades has lost many inhabitants through the departure of Nokia and other businesses. Other major regional centres are attracting purchasing power from the city. Dating from the 12th century, Altena's castle is one of the most beautiful hilltop fortresses in Germany, a monument of national significance and a tourist magnet. However, from the yearly 100 000 visitors of the castle only 10 000 come to the historic city centre. This must change – a major objective of our tourism concept is to better connect the castle with the city, to exploit the bus tourism that currently accesses the castle directly and thus to bring more visitors to the old town. Moreover, by stimulating tourism we hope to create more jobs for women which are currently lacking in Altena.

Which concrete actions are planned to support tourism in Altena and to better connect the castle with the city?

To connect the castle and the city, an elevator with modern museum pedagogy inside the hill is planned. Part-financed by ERDF, this elevator shall serve as an incubator for a positive development and help to revitalize the old town. Especially in the area in which the elevator will be built there was a high vacancy rate. Even though the works on the elevator are not completed yet, new retail shops establish in that part of the town, properties change owner-ship and one can already feel a change in the city.

How did the City of Altena benefit from the cooperation with the OP-ACT project partners, which knowledge did you gain?

The participation in OP-ACT somewhat opened up Europe for the small town Altena. In dialogue with partner cities from other European countries we could discuss different approaches and best-practice examples. Especially the exchange with the Romanian partner city Medias, the Lead Partner city Leoben and the Polish city Dabrowa Górnicza, that were also dealing with the development of a sustainable tourism, meant great added value for Altena. We could pick up many good ideas.

Which stakeholders were represented in your URBACT Local Support Group? Did the cooperation of the different actors in this interdisciplinary group work well?

To implement our urban development concept "Altena 2015", we already established some working groups, e.g. on housing issues or the development of the inner city. Within the frame of OP-ACT, the existing working group "cultour" (responsible for culture and tourism) was designated the Local Support Group. Members of this group are amongst others representatives of the city marketing, retailers, cultural professionals and citizens. The share of the city municipality within the group was rather small. With 15-20 participants, the group had a good size and was capable of acting.

Which added value did URBACT bring for the City of Altena and for you personally?

The exchange with partner cities from other European countries greatly contributed to the capacity building of the city administration’s staff. The participation in OP-ACT allowed us to gain valuable experience – technically as well as in regards to international cooperation. Also I myself took a lot of positives away with me. With OP-ACT and the final declaration we succeeded in stressing the concerns and needs of small and medium-sized cities but also to emphasize their potentials and innovative strength.

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