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REGIONS EUROPE


Katowice:acoal lot ofchange


A POST-INDUSTRIAL CITY IN SOUTHERN POLAND IS DRIVING CHANGE WITH ELECTRIC VEHICLES. SETH O’FARRELL REPORTS


trianised centre and picturesque squares, making it a popular tourist destination; the other is in the mid- dle of an urban agglomeration, his- torically encircled by heavy industry, and comparatively unknown outside


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of Poland. Having long played second fiddle to neighbouring Krakow, Katowice has recently come into its own. As the country made the transition to a


market economy in the mid-1990s, the Polish government closed the coal mines in and around the city, prompting a substantial urban and cultural transformation. It set up the Katowice Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to pro- mote greenfield investments in post-industrial terrains — a lot of which has come to be domi- nated by the automotive sector. Simultaneous plans have pushed through a


cultural renaissance, as the city not only repur- poses its post-industrial areas for economic enterprises, but also cultural activities utilising its industrial roots to the best of its advantage. In 2016, it received the title of the “city of music” from the Unesco Creative Cities Network. It hosted Cop24 in 2018 in its new international congress centre, which sits on a post-industrial site alongside the Silesian Museum and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. The city and surrounding urban area in


Upper Silesia, home to two million people, has since metamorphosed further still into a regional services hub. According to the City Hall of Katowice, the mining area of Katowice in 1990 stood at 91% of the city’s area, which dropped to 75% in 2014 and to 45% in 2019. In 2015, Katowice was listed by the Brookings Institution as an emerging gateway city. The process of post-industrialisation, punc-


tuated by the dominance of the automotive sec- tor, looks to its next step as being one propelled forward by electric vehicles (EVs). With the con- solidation of the services sector and the result- ing need for new office and logistics space, there are simultaneous concerns over the city’s historic greenfield investments push.


Cars drive change If cars spearheaded the post-industrialisationof Katowice in the 1990s, EVs are set to dominate the 2020s.


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n southern Poland, there is Krakow and there is Katowice. One is a historic city with a pedes-


Witold Uhma, deputy head of the audit,


analysis and control department at the Katowice SEZ, says thatmorethan60%of green- field projects are currently in the automotive sector—either in production or vehicle parts. Now with the government U-turning on its


green infrastructure agenda, as it announced plans in 2020 to phase out the entire country’s coal mines by 2049, there is notable support on the part of the government and foreign compa- nies towards EVs and battery plants. Poland’s first electric car plant will be built


in the town of Jaworzno near Katowice, with production starting in 2024. According to the government’s e-mobility development plan, it has predicted that by 2025, the totalnumber of EVs in Poland will increase to over one million. As the country’s high number of obsolete vehi- cles contributes to its terrible air quality — the worst in Europe — it is hoped that EVs will be able to improve pollution damage too. The per- centage of vehicles older than 16 years old in Poland stands at 55%. In December, the UK-based Fiat Chrysler


Automobiles Group announced it will invest more than $200min its plant in Tychy, Poland, where production is expected to start on new hybrid and electric Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo models in the second half of 2022. This follows the South Korea-based SK


Innovation’s decision to establish a lithiumion battery separator plant in the neighbouring city of Dabrowa Górnicza for the production of EVs in 2019.


Problematic greenfield Separate fromthe post-industrial zones in the surrounding areas, the city centre itself now looks markedly different, its newly built offices occupied by services companies. Michal Kulig, senior consultant at Savills in


Katowice, says that the whole landscape of the city changed rapidly, recalling that when he was a student in Katowice in 2007, it was a “sad city” where youwould not brave the railway sta- tion after dark. Now, the railway station is part of a mixed-use project, including a large-scale modern shopping centre Galeria Katowicka. The city has 560,000 square metres of new office spaces and started to rival Krakow in terms of attractiveness for both living and busi- ness, he asserts. Butthecity isnotwithout itsproblems.Asthe


number of favourable post-industrial plots/ter- rains decreases, industrialandlogistic developers


www.fDiIntelligence.com February/March 2021


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