First impressions from a preparatory visit to Odessa 27 and 28 August 2012.

In the framework of the preparations of the 5th CUPA Implementation Lab to be held in Odessa 2 – 5 October 2012, Volkmar Pamer of the Planning Department of the City of Vienna, Markus McDowell of Tina Vienna and Huibert Haccoû of the International Intervision Institute visited Odessa; amongst other to select the study case topics and the area’s that will be the subject of the forthcoming Implementation Lab.

The preparatory visit gave us an opportunity to have a first quick experience with the city of Odessa.

Odessa itself is a city with more than 1 million inhabitants. This leads to a high density due to the borders which the city of Odessa has.
The port of Odessa is one of the largest ports of the Black and Azov Seas basins, located in the north-western part of the Black Sea on the historically founded merchant ways between East and West. The port is a leader in cargo handling volumes among the ports of Ukraine and the largest passenger port on the Black Sea.

The most striking characteristic we observed is the huge gap between private wealth and public poverty.
The quality of the public space carries the characteristics of neglect and lack of maintenance suffered for a long period of time on the one hand and a big potential due to very broad streets and sidewalks with old trees in the city center yet on the other hand, the conditions of the roads and the streetcar rail are such that cars need to slalom to avoid the deep holes and the remains of obsolete tram tracks that stick out of the pavement.

This contrasts sharply with the remarkable high number of very expensive private automobiles like Bentleys, Porsches, BMW’s and the like. As well as the restored old buildings where investments seem to have been limitless.

The crucial daily struggle of the civil servants of the municipality, is the lack of public funding for the regular upkeep of public spaces like the roads and parks, not to speak about cycling lanes which are not existing at all. 
The Ukrainian tax system requires that all revenues are put at the disposal of the central government that has the powers to redistribute these taxes to all the cities and regions after having made the reservations for the central government budgets.

Exceptionally well kept however are the pavements in the city center of Odessa, where the luxury shops are dominantly present. Squares also in the inner city that have the character of green oasis’s.

However the larger parks of Odessa suffer from neglect.
It does not come as a surprise that the host would, like the Odessa Implementation Lab to focus on the generation of ideas, concepts and business models that could generate funding for the revitalization and upkeep of the Odessa parks.
These parks are without exception endowed with a high potential in terms of spatial quality.

Unlike some other cities in the Ukraine, Odessa has the live style and prizes of modern West European cities.
The attractively situated on the border of the Black Sea it is a target city for tourists mainly from Russia and other Mid European countries. Which is quite understandable, given the pleasant and mild Mediterranean climate and atmospheres. Also later in the evenings the city center is flogged with pedestrians young and old.