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Łódź is to host the prestigious Expo Horticultural in 2024, and is using the event as a catalyst to improve its urban environment and drive tourism. Sebastian Shehadi reports.

Beating off world-class competition, Łódź recently won the right to host the prestigious A1 World Horticultural Exhibition, Expo Horticultural 2024. The event will attract several million visitors to the city between April and September 2024, boosting Łódź’s young tourism industry and accelerating the development of its infrastructure and public spaces in the process.

Having applied in 2017 to host the Specialised Expo 2023, only to come second to Buenos Aires, Łódź showed that persistence pays off by applying for and winning the right to host Expo Horticultural in March 2018.

Nurturing nature

Organised by intergovernmental organisation the Bureau International des Exposition, Expos are large-scale, global gatherings designed to educate the public, share innovation and encourage progress. The Łódź Expo will promote an improved quality of life in the city and sustainable development with respect for nature and tradition. 

“It is devoted to creating urban landscapes and the use of green areas. [It is] an opportunity to share international experience and draw the world’s attention to the challenge of urban renewal, presented from the heart of the largest regenerated area in Europe [i.e. Łódź],” says Maciej Riemer, head of Łódź Expo team.

With participants and exhibitors from 65 countries, the event provides the perfect platform for horticultural, wellbeing and greentech companies to present their products and services. It is also an opportunity to develop Łódź’s budding tourism sector, since it is expected to attract 3.6 million domestic and 400,000 foreign visitors.

This boost is needed as Łódź is Poland’s third largest city but only the country’s seventh top tourism destination, drawing in 800,000 visitors annually.

“Łódź is missing tourist attractions, unlike many other big cities in Poland. We are hoping that Expo 2024 will accelerate this. Millions of people will see the fruits of our revitalisation,” says Adam Pustelnik, director of Łódź’s Investor Service and International Co-operation Bureau. He adds that good first impressions for investors are very important.

Going greener

With some 2378 hectares of forest and many large parks within its boundaries, Łódź is one of the greenest cities in Poland, as well as being home to Europe’s largest urban park. Łódź is already planning new infrastructure for Expo Horticultural – for example, by developing all the parks around the city, the ‘green ring’, and even creating new lakes. 

“The Expo is a catalyst for investment into the city. We’re building for the future, not just for the Expo – similar to the London 2012 Olympics in Stratford. [Making the city greener] is very high on the mayor’s agenda. We are ready and open for public-private partnerships,” says Mr Riemer.

The city’s two most central parks will see significant transformations. Park 3 Maja, at 77 hectares, will be the Expo’s main site as it is located next to Łódź Fabryczna station, one of Poland’s main rail hubs. Łódź’s new underground metro will be complete in three years’ time, providing two additional stations close by.

As many parks are on the outskirts, Łódź wants to make the city’s rather grey and sprawling centre greener, using green walls, roofs or any suitable space, according to Mr Riemer. The Netherland’s ‘pocket parks’ are a strong inspiration for Łódź’s development, and green tour routes are also being charted for walking and cycling, with many roads set for pedestrianisation.

“We want more leisure space and a less polluted city – which is a problem for Poland as a whole. Our pollution levels are higher than most countries in Europe because our cities have developed so rapidly in the past 20 years, causing environmental devastation. Also, many old homes in Poland are heated by coal fires,” says Mr Riemer.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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