In 2020 Józsefváros Municipality initiated a pedestrian friendly walkway project in the Déri Miksa Street neighborhood of the Csarnok Quarter. The aim of the project was to create a promenade whereby those working and living nearby would develop a sense of ownership and pride about the space. For this to happen, locals were central to the street refurbishment planning process. Five community events were held to mutually plan the park’s redevelopment resulting in designs that adapt to climate change with green areas, pergolas, light paving stones, and rain gardens.
An historically disadvantaged area of Budapest, Józsefváros Municipality has changed rapidly in the last 20 years through urban rehabilitation programs. The quarter is dominated by historic buildings and today there are many new buildings with newcomers moving into the area. The social composition of the neighborhood is heterogenous, with residents of both higher and lower income status who desire the development of green public spaces that can provide a place for local people to meet and get to know each other. As people living in cities have become alienated, the project team built a sense of belonging on a neighborhood level by involving residents in the way their surroundings are developed. The goal of the project was to listen to stakeholder point of view, needs, and to base the renewal of the street on their inputs.
The process of community planning was largely based on personal, offline interactions which helped keep events at the community level. It was however important that events were not only advertised online, but also reached as many residents as possible, thus strengthening the local character of the project, building social relationships in the quarter. To support these goals the team organized an idea competition, lent out vacant shops, and held events with/for the local community. A collective memory research project called “Faces of the Csarnok Quarter” was carried out during which the members of the research team (Lili Thury, György Thury, Anna Róza Donáth) explored the “real face” of the Csarnok Quarter through interviews and workshops with the community.
The project resulted in a climate adaptive public space that responds to the challenges of climate change while also empowering the community to care for its environment. The team emphasized education, explaining how sustainable solutions help climate adaptation. With soft programming residents proposed their own ideas for the Csarnok Quarter. These subsequent community events were an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other and included urban green walks, a beekeeping program, and a photo competition. Overall, ten ideas were executed in 2022 resulting in micro-events focused on inspiring residents.
Completed in November 2022, Déri Miksa Street replaced a space formerly dominated by cars with a public space that is the community’s. The new street has 1360 m2 of green space, benches, rain gardens, public toilets, a pergola, trampolines, and an outside gym. While the impact of the community building program was not always tangible, it was an important part of the project. For example, community members shared how the Csarnok Quarter has changed over the years. These inputs were put into an exhibition which was held on the pergola on the street as part of a street celebration when the construction was finished. The community came together and enjoyed seeing and using the new street in a completely different way than before.