Prague 9 plans a new neighborhood that takes its cues from Milan and Hamburg

The district intends to buy the land and plan the neighborhood, near O2 Arena, and then get developers involved in the process.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 19.10.2021 16:08 (updated on 19.10.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

Yet another new neighborhood could be popping up in on a Prague brownfield. A district is being planned for the former industrial site next to O2 Arena in Prague 9.

Its core should be a new square called náměstí Emila Kolbena, in honor of late 19th and early 20th century industrialist Emil Kolben.

The sustainable blue-green development on a roughly 10-hectare area will feature 3,500 flats, plus a kindergarten and elementary school, and other services. Prague 9 wants to buy land from Howden ČKD Compressors and participate in the creation of the new district, Prague 9 Mayor Tomáš Portlík said.

Due to O2 Arena and O2 universum, the site is becoming an attractive location. In the future, this part of the city could become an attractive modern alternative to the historic center, Prague 9 stated in a press release.

Overhead view of the planned development near O2 Arena. (Photo: Qarta)
Overhead view of the planned development near O2 Arena. (Photo: Qarta)

In an atypical move, Prague 9 wants to buy the land, create urban planning for it, and then sell it to developers after the urban planning study is completed. The district will then have the decisive say and will directly manage the development of the site.

The inspiration for this approach is in Hamburg, where the mayor there bought up land for the creation of the new HafenCity district. The city then created an urban plan and sold the individual city blocks to developers for final development after an architectural competition.

“We have the chance to create a high-quality public space in synergy with what private investors have already built and give a new impetus to this part of the city, which is still blighted by old factories and impenetrable to residents,” Prague 9 Mayor Tomáš Portlík said.

“We have the experience of Park Přátelství (Friendship Park), where the public gave us a mandate to buy land and make it work for people. Now we want to build a new center where the best architects with novel ideas could participate, just like in Hamburg,” Portlík added.

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Prague 9 has already commissioned an urban planning study for the development of the entire site.

Visualization of náměstí Emila Kolbena. (Photo: Qarta)
Visualization of náměstí Emila Kolbena. (Photo: Qarta)

“We have a chance to build a real city of short distances, combining opportunities for living, working and entertainment. At the same time, we would like to build a new center here with a square, school, and other public functions,” Portlík said.

“If the district is actively involved in the creation of the central part of the development area, a match between the needs of the city and the economics of the projects is found much easier and faster than if [the district] just corrects the ideas of investors,” he added.

The study prepared by architecture studio Qarta already gives a clear idea of what the design of the modern urban district could look like. However, the district still wants to involve the public in discussions about what the new district should bring Prague 9 residents.

The newly built main square on one side would contain a full-fledged school and kindergarten. The other side could be topped by buildings that would become new landmarks, including a ground-level educational technical center.

O2 Arena in Prague via Wikimedia / VitVit
O2 Arena in Prague (Photo: Wikimedia commons, VitVit)

"We would like to bring Prague 9's industrial past into the present and build on it with a center that would attract young people and children to modern technology such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, 3D printing and more. If we really want to be a country for the future, we must also lead our education in a technical direction,” Portlík said.

It is important to teach young people to love technology from an early age, he said. “Where else but in the traditionally industrial Prague 9 should a center focused on popularizing science and modern technologies useful for industry be established?” Portlík said.

Architect Jiří Řezák, the author of the urban planning study, said Vysočany could become the “next Karlín” thanks to its similar industrial history and excellent transport links. “Náměstí Emila Kolbena and the boulevard will create a completely unique public space,” Řezák said.

“We found inspiration in Milan, where the City Hall, together with urban planners and architects, approached the revitalization of a similar area by combining classic buildings with high-rise landmarks. This made it possible to create a truly generous public space with a lively ground level and places for relaxation,” he added.

“The high-rise development will complement the existing Eliška residential building, completing the space and bringing in clear elements that will contribute to better orientation in the area. The urban design of the site also benefits from the large park around the Rokytka stream,” Řezák said.

In the future, the entire area around O2 Arena will be transformed. The Českomoravská metro station and the adjacent bus station will also undergo significant redevelopment. This should create a modern 21st-century urban district, according to Prague 9.

This is just one of several large developments in various stages in Prague. The Smíchov area will see a large development on the site of a bus depot and industrial buildings. Several simultaneous projects are planned for Karlín and Rohanský ostrov. The former railyards in Holešovice will be turned into a large district with a new center for concerts and arts. There are also projects near Palmovka and in Modřany.

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