Interview series with mayors of European cities
The pandemic has changed the landscape of our cities. This has become the main challenge for thousands of small businesses, which shape and give taste and colour to our “urban lives”. In cooperation with the European media Euractiv, METRO has asked city mayors and local stakeholders across Europe on how to make city centres attractive again.
The debate about the attractiveness of city centres across Europe has gained momentum after the Corona impasse. Existing structural challenges such as the lack of a diverse offer, difficult access, traffic, and noise, etc. have rendered city centres less attractive for citizens and external visitors alike. This is having a deep impact on the restaurant sector and local independent shops, a problem which has been exacerbated after the last two years’ closures and declining number of visitors.
Last year, in the study #Innenstadtinitiative (“City Centre Initiative”) Institute for Trade Research, Cologne (IFH) and METRO AG focused on the needs of small and medium-sized restaurant businesses in cities. 250 restaurateurs were surveyed on current challenges, future plans and requirements for city centres as business location. The aim of the study was to identify initial approaches to political action in urban and district development. “After the comprehensive analyses, it is now time for action. The order of the day for all local stakeholders is to work together to increase the attractiveness of the cities and to fulfil new functions. In close cooperation with the municipality, retail businesses, but also with new partners such as the skilled trades as well as cultural and educational institutions, it is important for restaurateurs to take an active part in implementing new concepts for city centres,” according to Boris Hedde, expert on city centres and managing director of IFH.
New concepts are also a crucial element for METRO AG CEO Steffen Greubel: “People are longing to go to their favorite restaurants, meet friends in the bar and get together. For inner cities, this is a chance to become again a place for enjoyment and togetherness. We need new concepts that combine gastronomy, local shops, and culture to make towns better places to live and work. Hospitality is a strong partner to turn city centres into unique experiences,” he added. The transformation of city centres, accompanied by a more offer will be key in helping societies to readjust after the pandemic. Places to go out are a central factor for city centre development. They have a positive effect on the atmosphere of the area and increase the time visitors spend there. Across all age groups, the motives for visiting the inner city continue to be the culinary experience, going out and shopping. All these elements must, therefore, be given greater consideration in urban concept for development.