Poor Soviet city planning made Ukrainian cities of the 1990s look gloomy and ruined. Large belts of factories around city centers became abandoned while huge modernist housing on the outskirts lacked sufficient functions, infrastructure, and diversity for a comfortable life. The boom of new urban solutions, revitalizing Ukrainian cities, started after 2015 with the adoption of progressive state norms, the start of international programs in Ukraine, and a new generation of creative Ukrainians coming to rule municipalities.
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Since two-thirds of Ukrainians live in cities, liveable city environments are the key to making Ukrainians satisfied with their country and rebuilding their trust in the authorities. In some cities, such as Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Khmelnytskyi, or (partially) Kyiv, local governments have significantly altered the direction of city development. These cities have become the richest and most vibrant in Ukraine, providing important IT, consulting, and creative services to both Ukrainian and global markets.
These are also the cities with the most rapid construction of new comfortable accommodation. Lviv, just a quarter of the size of Kyiv, is in constant competition with the capital in terms of the quantity of new comfortable accommodation, with both cities far ahead of their competitors.
Some cities still largely remain dependent on their industrial Soviet legacy. These are the so-called monocities, where one or several giant enterprises determine the entire structure of the local economy, like metal smelting in Zaporizhzhia or mining in Ukraine’s east.
Such a state of affairs does not bode well for the overall democratic culture, as people are scared of losing their jobs and feel dependent on their employer.
Yet even in such cities, the situation is gradually changing, partially due to support from international educational programs such as GIZ (German Corporation for International Cooperation) which since 2015 has been implementing a comprehensive educational and practical project of integrative city planning for various Ukrainian cities. Along with the Revolution of Dignity and the rise of civil society, such projects are changing the culture of local governments and enhancing local participation.
Below are some fruits of the revitalization of Ukrainian cities that have become a dominant trend in the last 3-4 years. Although far from comprehensive, this list gives an insight into how Ukrainian cities are transforming, as well as how the creativity of the new Ukrainian generation is showing itself.
1. The Kyiv river port
Revitalized Kyiv river port. Source: mistosite
In 1897, a new river port was laid on the Dnipro bank in Kyiv. In 1961, the harbor received a new station building, but at the end of the 20th-century water passenger traffic was significantly reduced, and the river station was rendered superfluous.
In 2019, the Food Station Bay was opened. This large-scale street food project includes well-known street food enterprises and bars. Additionally, the Prychal (Bay) Art Space was opened in the building with an exhibition of works by young Ukrainian artists called Renovation. Located just one kilometer from the city center, the former river port building was recognized as an architectural monument and has increasingly become an important cultural center, hosting book presentations, workshops and concerts.
2. UNIT City
In 1945, the Kyiv Motorcycle Plant was established. It produced about 3 million motorcycles but stopped working in the 2000s. In the spring of 2017, Ukrainian businessman Vasyl Khmelnytskyi opened the UNIT City innovation park and the UNIT Factory IT school on the territory of the plant. The reconstruction is ongoing and the project includes not only a school, business campuses, and co-working spaces, but also open public spaces, creative areas, as well as a residential complex. Several Ukrainian technology startups and innovative companies have already relocated to UNIT.City. The sixth UNIT.City facility, a new business campus for 1,000 employees, opened in January 2019. According to the founder, the project should become one of the largest innovation parks in Europe.
Ruins of Kyiv Motorcycle Plant in 2016 before the renovation.
The constructed part of UNIT.City. Source: wikipedia
Accomodation under construction in the UNIT.City. Source: ITC
3. PROMPRYLAD in Ivano-Frankivsk
In 1965, a machine-building plant, “Promprylad,” was founded in Ivano-Frankivsk. After privatization, production volumes began to decline gradually, and the site began to decay. About 150 people still work there, but a large part of the plant lies in ruins. In 2017, a renovation project started. By 2024, its founders plan to turn the abandoned plant area into a profitable business project, renovating more than 27,000 square meters and constructing 10,000 square meters of new premises. Revenue will be generated by leasing of premises. While 70% of the space is given over to business, the rest will be offered to educational and cultural projects at reduced rates. One-sixth of the plant is already reconstructed and in use.
4. FESTrepublic in Lviv
Ruined glass bottle plant in Lviv. Source: Tvoje.Misto
The glass bottle plant in Lviv went bankrupt and was sold along with the land, premises, and equipment. In 2016, one of the company’s buildings was bought by the holding IFEST, the company of the famous Lviv businessman Andriy Khudo.
Fest Republic. Source: IFEST
As a result, one of the largest nightclubs in Lviv appeared, as well as a cultural space called FESTrepublic. FESTrepublic also opened a garment production of the Aviation of Galicia brand and became a residence of Ukraine’s leading Staryi Lev Publishing House. Festivals and public events take place in this picturesque place near the city’s largest park.
5. Old tram depot in Lviv
Old depot in Lviv. Source: Misto.site
The depot for Lviv’s trams was built in 1893. In 1927 the third and largest part was built. In the 21st century, areas of this size are no longer needed. In 2016, the Lviv City Council allowed the transfer of part of the old depots for investment. The facilities already host festivals and concerts.
Concerts in the reconstructed depot. Source: Tvoje Misto
6. Art Factory Mechanics in Kharkiv
In 2016, Kharkiv businessmen Serhiy Piliuhin revitalized the premises of the plant where steam locomotives were once produced, launching the creative project “Art Factory Mechanics – The Other Land.” The space hosts various types of events and provides places for rental.
There are many other similar projects, both already implemented and planned:
Event zone in the Fabrika space in Kharkiv, a revitalized agricultural enterprise.
Kyiv’s giant, moribund regenerative and rubber plant Volcano has been turned into a new apartment complex, Comfort Town:
In 2020, Ukrainian businessmen Serhiy Tihipko bought the territory of the factory on Rybalskyi island, is now an industrial wasteland, just 2 kilometers from the city center. His company proposed several construction projects on the island, one of which is Lipki Island City Resort. According to municipal plans, the population of the island should increase from 1,300 current residents living amongst dilapidated Soviet factories to 23,000.
Lipki Island City Resort (plan). Source: Khmarochos
This publication is part of the Ukraine Explained series, which is aimed at telling the truth about Ukraine’s successes to the world. It is produced with the support of the National Democratic Institute in cooperation with the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, Internews, StopFake, and Texty.org.ua. Content is produced independently of the NDI and may or may not reflect the position of the Institute. Learn more about the project here.
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Bohdan Ben is a researcher in the field of social and ethical philosophy and in the field of local governance. He was among the winners of the program “Youth will change Ukraine” organized by Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation. Together with his friends, he began the implementation of the project “In the land of Hope,” which aims to facilitate and promote local initiatives that strive for social and ecological sustainability. Bohdan can be reached by [email protected] or on fb.
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