Łódź’s glitzy makeover continues full ‘dream’ ahead with raft of new regeneration projects
Once a bi-word for urban degradation, the regeneration of Łódź shows no sign of slowing with 2022 promising to be a particularly important year in the city’s renewal.
According to City Hall, the value of ongoing public renovations currently tops PLN 425 million with a considerable portion of that being spent on the transformation of Włókiennicza street.
Viewed as a flagship investment, the project’s significance goes deeper than most. Notorious across Poland, for decades it was openly regarded as the most dangerous street in the country.
Before the war, Włókiennicza became known as a Dickensian-style den of thieves, a street whose broken facades hid bawdy drinking joints, bordellos and illegal gambling dens. Under communism, things got even worse and it became the centre of the city’s black market dealings and underworld activity.
Neither did the political transformation offer a reprieve, and Włókiennicza came to be regarded by many as something of a no-go zone at night – and even day.
Nonetheless, its shattered look did see it occasionally used as a set for WWII films, though it said much that many visiting camera crews were met with something approaching outright hostility – star actor Bogusław Linda, for example, reputedly faced physical threats from locals who thought he wasn’t affording the street and its people the ‘respect’ that they deserved.
Now, however, Włókiennicza stands on the verge of an entirely new future as its ambitious renovation reaches its climax.
Along with a stunning refit of the shabby apartments that once lined the street, Włókiennicza will also be planted with pear trees and tulips, whilst other innovations will include the introduction of a 5,000 sq/m pocket park.
Meanwhile, the street itself will morph into a pedestrian-friendly woonerf, and although some activists have raised concerns regarding gentrification, the city has moved fast to quell fears by promising that 223 apartments will be council owned.
Yet whilst Włókiennicza’s reinvention looks set to dominate local headlines, this is far from being the only project that will be completed this year.
Much hype also surrounds the restoration of the inner courtyard of Piotrkowska 102. Home to the nationally renowned Łódź-Kaliska bar and club, works will see the inner-facing facades renovated, historic architectural details fixed and details added that will pay tribute to some of the city’s demolished factories.
Placing an increased value on Piotrkowska’s courtyards, work will also extend to properties at No. 115 and No. 118.
According to City Hall, these will be “filled with greenery and cozy cafes that will perfect for meetings and dates.”
Defined by its pointy turret, the villa at Sienkiewicza 26 is also scheduled for a complete facelift. First owned in the 19th century by the Jewish philanthropist Maurycy Frankel, the villa later served a brief stint as a police casino in the 1980s.
When work is finalized, it will house offices as well as a restaurant.
Down the road, former factories at Sienkiewicza 61A and 63 will also benefit from a full overhaul that will see the creation of office space, art studios, workshops, food and drink outlets and premises for micro entrepreneurs.
Having already seen an aggressive bout of work, more changes will be introduced to Księży Mlyn as well, a historic network of redbrick former textile mills.
First founded by the industrialist Karol Scheibler at the height of the Industrial Revolution, 2022 will see 47 buildings revitalized and an avenue of linden trees planted so as to recreate the area’s past look.
Impressive as this all may sound, Mayor Hanna Zdanowska was keen to stress that more is yet to come, saying: “Right now we are continuing what we already started, but it must be remembered that we will also initiate new projects and it is our intention to use this year to begin work on the Rynek, Pl. Wolności, the Schiller Passage and Skwer Wiedźmina.