EBRD supports urban regeneration initiative in Zagreb

By Axel  Reiserer

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Addressing urgent needs and unlocking the long-term potential of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting an initiative for the urban regeneration of the Gredelj area, located to the south of the historic “lower town”, Donji Grad.

Based on a new study, commissioned after the March 2020 earthquake, the Bank proposes the revitalisation of the abandoned Gredelj area as a new urban city centre and transport hub with integrated cultural assets. Gredelj could accommodate residential, office, retail, hotel and public use following the earthquake damage to buildings in the adjacent Donji Grad, many of which were home to government departments and agencies.

Victoria Zinchuk, EBRD Director, Head of Croatia, said: “The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and two strong earthquakes in 2020 have hit Croatia hard. Yet now is the time to move forward and advance plans to unleash the country’s specific potential. Our proposal for Zagreb shows what the slogan ‘build back better’ can mean in real life.”

Located between the main railway station and the bus terminal, the 13 hectare area currently under consideration and formerly used mainly as an industrial site would also serve as a transport hub and help provide much-needed connectivity between east and west Zagreb. The residential segment would be the key driver of the site development, given the significant demand for housing and the shortage of new-build projects in the city.

Overall, the Gredelj urban regeneration site could attract investment of up to around €1.6 billion over 15 years, contribute 3 per cent (pre-tax) to Zagreb’s GDP and potentially draw to the area between 10,000 and 15,000 permanent jobs in its maturity, the study finds.

The EBRD, which to date has invested some €4 billion in Croatia, can offer financing structures to its partners, private-sector investors and developers, which can strongly complement any public investment in civil infrastructure components supported by central government or European Union (EU) funds. Major components of the urban regeneration plans will be eligible for EU grant and loan funding under both the NextGenerationEU recovery instrument and the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework. EBRD technical assistance is available to support project preparation and procurement.

Zagreb is not the only city in Croatia where the EBRD is involved in supporting municipalities to address sub-optimal patterns of building and land-use, converting expensive liabilities into profitable assets, creating economic stimulus and transforming abandoned sites into thriving, green, high-quality areas.

Projects are under development in Split, where the Bank has funded the preparation of a strategic masterplan for the city’s two transport hubs; in Pula, where the Bank has funded an assessment of brownfield sites across the city; and in Šibenik, where the EBRD has funded the preparation of an integrated development strategy for a former industrial site adjacent to the city’s historic centre.

Ms Zinchuk added: “We see opportunities across Croatia for the strategic commercialisation of brownfield land in cities and have been mobilising support in many ways, from grant funding to concrete work on the structuring of such initiatives. There are many successful examples of such an approach in other countries and we are convinced that Croatia has the will and potential to follow this path.”

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