Strasbourg: restoring the Port to the heart of the City
Interview with Emilie Gravier, Director of Port Development and Promotion,
Port Autonome de Strasbourg – PAS
“Once at the heart of the medieval and modern city, the port of Strasbourg was for most of the 20th century located on a site some distance away. The city has now expanded to join the port on the banks of the Rhine, restoring the port of Strasbourg to its urban character, and adding extra responsibility,“ explains Emilie Gravier. The response includes a raft of measures, including developments in the port’s central zone in conjunction with urban projects in the Deux-Rives district, actions to improve urban mobility and optimising traffic flows, better integration between the port, city and natural environment, efforts to ensure the best use of port spaces and landscaping, and citizen-facing initiatives. All of these measures are intended to reflect the additional layer of responsibility and optimise city-port integration.
The Port Autonome de Strasbourg is a member of AIVP since 1989
AIVP – The Strasbourg Eurometropole authority has embarked on a vast urban project with the Deux-Rives Mixed Development Zone, a territory covering some 160 hectares located in the central area of the Port. What actions has the Port undertaken as part of this project, and how will they help to integrate the port into this fast-changing district?
Emilie Gravier, Port Autonome de Strasbourg
Once at the heart of the medieval and modern city, the port of Strasbourg was for most of the 20th century located on a site some distance away. The city has now expanded to join the port on the banks of the Rhine, restoring the port of Strasbourg to its urban character, and adding extra responsibility. As part of this movement, and having contributed to the master plan setting out the main lines of the project, PAS (Port Autonome de Strasbourg, the independent port operator) has transferred to SPL2Rives, the City’s developer, a number of pieces of unused land for development. In the central port zone which will be the interface with the urban districts, the port is making several investments intended to help shape the new landscape to be created, and which will improve the image of this port sector.
PAS will be completely repurposing the rue du Port du Rhin, turning it into a street with a more attractive ambience, whilst retaining its port functions, particularly the level crossings which will be secured and fitted with barriers.
The harbour master’s office, a late 19th century building with fine architecture and magnificent views of 2 km across the docks, is also set to be redeveloped, and will eventually house a restaurant where the residents of Strasbourg can admire their port and the container traffic.
Capitainerie © PAS
Finally, PAS is building its future headquarters in this district. The building, designed by Rey Lucquet & Associés, is a fine piece of architecture and will be contribute to the district’s identity. The decision to set up PAS’ headquarters in this district is also a reassuring sign and has gone down very well with businesses based at the port. The port sector adjacent to this future urban district will remain a dynamic port zone, through which two thirds of our rail and river traffic will pass.
AIVP – Another consideration for city-port integration is the impact of port activities on urban mobility, a recurring issue for port cities. What are you doing or envisaging in order to both smooth traffic on the roads of the city and region, and to optimise your logistics?
PAS – Emilie Gravier
In 2014, an inter-company travel scheme was introduced to promote smoother mobility for the 10,000 employees who come to work in Strasbourg’s port zone every day. As part of the scheme, public transport routes were changed, businesses were provided with online tools to help with mobility changes, and six kilometres of cycle lanes were created.
As regards goods transport, PAS and its partners VNF and the Région Grand Est (Great East Region) are going ahead with plans for a river shuttle for pre- and post-carriage between Saverne (50 km away) and the Strasbourg North container terminal. It’s an ambitious project that relies on a completely new innovation: designing a Freycinet boat capable of carrying as many containers as possible.
PAS is also committed to its Upper Rhine Ports cooperative with eight other ports in France, Germany and Switzerland, which is aimed at improving the reliability of river-based container transport and integrating it more effectively into logistics chains. A computerised system known as the Rhine Ports Information System is being rolled out to allow joint management of river container traffic from Basel to Mannheim. That’s also a major innovation, as it is Europe’s first transnational Port Community System.
AIVP – In 2016, ADEUS (Strasbourg’s Development & Planning Agency) published a “Leitbild for the port zone“, a roadmap created with your input designed to better “interlock port, city and nature“. At the time, we brought this in-depth and highly interesting approach to the attention of our network’s members. Can you remind us of the main aims and actions it entails?
PAS – Emilie Gravier
In recent years, PAS has a very interesting partnership with ADEUS. The Leitbild roadmap is one of the fruits of that partnership. It aimed to identify the links between the city and port that either existed or needed to be strengthened, in various areas: travel, heritage, landscape and biodiversity.
Following that Leitbild, the port of Strasbourg decided to continue its work on biodiversity with ADEUS, as several species of interest were found in the port. This year, that initiative should allow the port to adopt a genuine biodiversity strategy and introduce some practical measures.
AIVP – You have also committed to VALPORT, an initiative aimed at promoting and improving the entire port territory. What are the main objectives and what actions have you planned or already taken?
PAS – Emilie Gravier
In 2009, businesses in the port zone drafted a document setting out some of their expectations of local authorities and the port authority. One of their key priorities was improving the port’s appeal, notably in terms of layout and landscaping, both to boost its image and to provide employees with a pleasant working environment.
The VALPORT initiative to promote and improve the port is one of the responses.
VALPORT is about projects to improve the quality of public spaces and the image of the port zone, but it is also a philosophy that brings our services together around the goal of satisfying port users and ensuring the port’s long-term appeal. It has already led to improvements in pedestrian paths by facilitating access from certain bus stops and providing safe ways to cross railway lines in the southern port zone.
Actions will be also be undertaken to continue developing links and deal with some abandoned spaces. It’s worth bearing in mind that each operation is systematically accompanied by special landscaping work designed to improve perceptions of the port environment.
Finally, the initiative also includes the installation of new signposting at the port, using container-related vocabulary with unique and very distinctive street furniture, a move that has proved a unanimous hit with our clients.
AIVP – This initiative is also intended to provide make the port more visible to the public. In April and May 2017, you proposed a new vision of the port in the shape of a “temporary port center“. You also organised celebrations to mark the port’s 90th anniversary in June 2016. As you know, AIVP takes a great interest in these sorts of initiatives, in particular through our Port Center Network. What were the main aims and content of your temporary port center? Will you be repeating or perhaps even developing the experience for the longer term?
PAS – Emilie Gravier
PAS is indeed highly active in these efforts to improve dialogue with the public and explain what it does. The temporary Port Center created for the inauguration of the tramway to Germany, which passes through the port zone, was designed to showcase all aspects of the port using art as a vector. The Port Center had some educational boards showing what the port dies, and a large aerial photograph showing its size. In partnership with Ososphère, artworks inspired by the port were also displayed, including photos, and digital works such as Cyprien Quairiat’s “Zoning Seen from the Sky“, which allowed visitors to reveal different projections for re-zoning in the port zone, from virgin forest to a giant theme park. Finally, the Port Center was also a forum for discussion and debate, with a space dedicated to “conservation cafés“ and a temporary radio station that broadcast debates and interviews live.