Development Management and HafenCity Hamburg GmbH

Management of a development such as this, where a whole new city district is to be realized, has to be integrated to be successful. Most responsibilities connected with development of the district are therefore coordinated by HafenCity Hamburg GmbH

Photo shows external shot of Hafencity Hamburg GmbH building

HafenCity Hamburg GmbH’s offices are on Osakaallee opposite Überseequartier - at the heart of the brand new district (© ELBE&FLUT)

Major urban development projects call for strong interaction and coalescence between conception and realization. In particular, the considerable intricacy involved in securing and closely coordinating public investment (around EUR 2.4 billion, of which approx. 1.5 billion is revenue from the sale of land) with acquisition of private investment (around EUR 8.5 billion) results in very complex responsibilities and demands strong management.

In 1997 a port and location development company (GHS) was set up to manage the development of HafenCity – since 2004 it has been known as HafenCity Hamburg GmbH. It is responsible for the “special city and port fund”, which consists of land owned by the City of Hamburg located in the HafenCity area. The sale of these sites provides finance for the lion’s share of public investment in HafenCity, notably roads, bridges, squares, parks, quays and promenades. In addition to this financing responsibility, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH also clears and prepares sites, plans and builds public spaces as well as infrastructure, acquires and contracts real estate developers and users, and is responsible for public relations and communication.

HafenCity Hamburg GmbH is a 100 percent subsidiary of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The company is developing HafenCity at Hamburg’s behest. Public supervision, cooperation, and the division of responsibilities are demanding: the supervisory board of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH – chaired by the first mayor – consists of members of the city senate. Sales and options (with an obligation to plan) on land purchases have to be approved by the Land Commission; zoning plans are subject to consultation and approval from the Commission of Urban Development (made up largely of parliamentary and local government representatives) and are processed by the HafenCity working party in the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment which also issues permits. Juries for urban planning and open space competitions and for competitions for buildings comprise representatives of the Ministry of Urban Development and Environment (chief planning officer), the district council, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH and several politicians (from Mitte district or the city parliament) as well as private developers and independent architects.

By concentrating non-official functions in a dedicated development company of its own, Hamburg can ensure the efficiency and quality of the urban development project, yet through intensive division of labor and control also retain a high degree of public accountability. 

Responsibility for HafenCity, Billebogen, Grasbrook and Science City Hamburg Bahrenfeld sees HafenCity Hamburg GmbH now in charge of the development and coordination of four large, heterogenous urban spaces that represent the whole breadth of complex, highly ambitious and cooperative urban development. Together the three urban development areas by the rivers Elbe and Bille represent a transformation zone of over 300 hectares in size. With homes for approx. 23,000 people and space for approx. 71,000 jobs it is a development opportunity whose character is second to none in Europe if not beyond. The Science City Hamburg urban development project simultaneously opens up further future perspectives for Hamburg as a city of knowledge and science.