The global retailer Ikea is famous for its affordable “out of the box” furniture, which has furnished many an apartment (and dorm). But Ikea is thinking bigger. Much bigger. Now, it has turned its sites beyond the home to the city itself. That’s right: the Swedish furniture giant is getting into neighborhood design.
This spring we reported that LandProp Services — the intellectual property arm of Ikea — was engaged in the development of its first urban neighborhood in the far reaches of East London, not far from the 2012 Olympics grounds. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, this 11-hectare expanse full of rusting machinery, piles of trash, grinding construction equipment and abandoned warehouses will soon be a tightly packed “Ikea-land” neighborhood called Strand East.
Now LandProp Services has added another project to the roster in a brand-new district with retail, residential and office space for thousands of people in the northern German city of Hamburg. Like Strand East, this development will be pedestrian-centric: cars will be required to park at the development’s entrance in an underground garage, and only delivery trucks, buses, and emergency vehicles will be allowed to drive inside. That leaves plenty of space for public parks and pedestrian walkways, going back to the Ikea philosophy of “doing something for the people” (rather than, presumably, their cars). Currently, Ikea is seeking 12 acres in the German city to make this happen; as in London, the focus is on redeveloping lots that are currently vacant, rather than razing an existing neighborhood to make way for Ikea-land.
In Strand East there will be 1,200 homes for rent — 40 percent of these which will be large enough to accommodate families. All buildings will be constructed with high energy efficiency systems and extensive insulation. We’re imagining that the Hamburg development will follow along similar lines. However, there is at least one German real-estate agent who doubts Ikea-land, Hamburg, will actually get off the ground, citing the heavy regulatory environment of Germany when it comes to urban planning. Which perhaps just goes to show that when it comes to urban planning, not everything is “out of the box.”