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The MediaHarbor - The history of the harbor

The MediaHarbor - Two aerial photos of the Harbour taken in 1964 and 1999

The history of the harbor

From shipping harbor to media hub

Although Düsseldorf’s coat of arms has borne an anchor since the 15th century, it was not until the early 19th century that the city’s harbor began handling shipping on a major scale. It was still some time before the advantages of the location could be fully exploited. Various plans for a Rhine harbor in Düsseldorf were drawn up, resulting in the construction of the Harbor Warehouse (later a pawnbroker’s) in 1866. In 1880, a Berlin architect by the name of Plock was commissioned to draw up plans for the harbor. Construction officially commenced on December 6, 1890 and the Düsseldorf Rhine harbor, covering an area of 80 hectares, was opened in 1896.

The harbor suffered severe damage in the Second World War but was rebuilt during a period of expansion that lasted two decades. By the mid-60s it had reached the height of its growth, encompassing 8 docks and covering 55 hectares of water. The city grew along with the harbor, constantly exceeding its old boundaries. Once at the southern limit of the municipal area, today the harbor is part of the immediate inner city zone. It is only 900 meters away from the old part of town and just 1,200 meters from Königsallee.

The harbor undergoes a transformation (starting in the 1970s)

The transformation from a production to a service center, the increasing migration of goods traffic from shipping to the roads and altered structures in transport and warehousing have had a strong impact on the harbor’s economic significance for the city over the last few decades. On the other hand, Düsseldorf’s position as a state capital and international business center meant that it needed new inner city areas to meet growing demands. In 1973, the "Ritter planning group" submitted its harbor report to the city. In addition to a process of concentration and reorganization, it recommended finding a new use for the harbor that would encourage urban renewal by exploiting its proximity to the city center and prime location on the Rhine.

In 1974 the city council voted to reduce the size of the harbor by 33 hectares. Taking this diminished area as its starting point, the city planning authority and the Stadtwerke AG developed a concept for the future of the Düsseldorf harbor. It aims not only to safeguard industrial lots and those used by shipping agencies but also, by limiting the area to be transformed, to preserve existing secondary jobs and create new employment opportunities. The commercial and industrial harbor between the Weizenmühlenstraße spit and Lausward power plant will thus remain intact, with Kesselstraße acting as a kind of „buffer zone“ between the transshipment harbor and the urban renewal zone starting at Speditionstraße. The reconstruction of the harbor was implemented in 4 phases.

The Rhine Tower, the state parliament and the headquarters of the WDR broadcasting company were completed during the first development phase. Another council resolution was passed in 1985: media companies were to be established in the Kaistraße area and benefit from its proximity to the inner city area.

In 1989 a project coordinator was appointed to establish and coordinate short decision-making processes between politicians, financial backers, users and architects. No independent development company was founded. Instead the project coordinator, with the authoritative and crucial support of top-ranking officials, formed an expert working group that met regularly to collaborate on the projects concerned. He was thus able to utilize the know-how of the various municipal agencies, a concentrated use of human resources that ensured effectiveness and flexibility.

Another interesting fact: not a single cent of state funding has gone into the MediaHarbor. The bottom line after deduction of all costs is a profit of 25 million euros for the city.

Development and implementation phases: 1. Berger Hafen/Zollhafen, 2. Handelshafen/Hammer Straße, 3. Hafen Speditionstraße, 4. Hafen Kesselstraße
Development and implementation phases

MediaHarbor history: image of a building and aerial views of the river

Further information
You can find detailed information on the history of the MediaHarbor at the Planning Office website. (German language version)
Further information

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Jun 26, 2016 | 11:56 AM

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