Developments loom on Krakow waterfront

European developers have begun contacting the City of Krakow about making the proposed Vistula Riverfront development project a reality.
That is a signal that the city?s proposal will become a reality rather than remain a dream. The city plans a sand beach along the Vistula River in the middle of town, a floating swimming pool, floating hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.
In addition to providing residents with a nice recreation facility, city officials proposed the project to prevent apartments from going up along the Vistula. Developers have been eyeing the area hungrily.
Jan Okonski, head of the city?s development office, declined to confirm journalists? speculation that an Austrian company and a Polish-Italian partnership have contacted the city with development proposals. ?All that I can say at the moment is that all offers are from Europe,? he said.
Although some companies have expressed early interest, he said the city is planning a competition to choose the best architectural project, with the help of the Krakow chapter of the Polish Architects Association. He said the hope is ?that by the end of this year the competition (and thus the developer) will be settled.?
If the City Council accepts the area development plan then the investment realization can move forward. Krakow?s Mayor Jacek Majchrowski likes the idea and is favorably disposed to the project.
Besides recreation development, the city?s Vistula Riverfront development plan includes landscape protection ? a ban on multistory structures — and transportation improvement via a ?water tram,? a boat that will serve as an alternative to city transport.
From an architect?s point of view, any development must retain the river?s picturesque vista, protect the scenic views of Wawel Castle and other landmarks and preserve the public character of the space.
Okonski hopes the sand beach and the floating pool, which will be continuously refilled with clean water, will be completed by next summer. The key to that happening is a sign-off from Krakow?s Regional Water Management Board, which oversees water resources management in the Upper Vistula River basin and the basins of the nearby Dniestr and Dunaj rivers. The board?s initial reaction to the city?s proposal was favorable.
?The project can be slowed down by other local officials,? Okonski cautioned. Approvals from the city?s chief architect and chief graphic designer ?are also necessary, especially since the beach location has yet to be decided.?
In addition to sign-offs from the water board, the city architect and the city designer, the city must change its river-related public-property rental law, Okonski said. The law limits to a year the time a company can rent space over a river.
No one would want to build a floating hotel, restaurant, coffee shop or other structure on a property whose rental agreement expires in a year, Okonski said. Thus, the city will have to change the law on renting space over a river to allow for long-term rental contracts. Current law provides for long-term contracts on land as opposed to space above a river. The only recreational facilities on the Vistula River right now are floating restaurants. Cruise boats offer scenic tours and there are places to rent kayaks, pedal-boats, motorboats and even luxury Bentley catamarans.
The city wants the new Vistula Riverfront development not only to accommodate residents but also to serve the growing number of tourists.
Many Krakow residents are enthusiastic about the proposed development. ?This is a fantastic idea,? said Ewa Jankowska, an Internet advertising specialist. ?We can be as proud of it as the Czechs are proud of the Vitava River in Prague.?
 Piotr Dudlej-Sanojca, a musician, was more skeptical. ?It?s hard to imagine a sand beach in a noisy urban center,? he said. ?I prefer to go outside the city and lie down in a quiet, uncrowded stretch of riverside.?
Okonski said Krakow has had five minutes of fame. He was most likely referring to two previous local developments. ?We want to extend it to the proverbial 15 minutes.?
Last year Krakow won first prize in a Europe-wide planning competition for its St. Bronislava Hill development. The award was part of the European Council of Spatial Planners? sixth annual Achievements in Regional and Local Planning competition. In addition, the Ministry of Construction gave Krakow a third place in its Spatial and Urban Planning competition for the development of the area around Krakow?s John Paul II-Balice Airport.

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