Are Eco-Cities Building a Comeback?

Despite the recession, investors still interested in constructing 'eco-cities'.

ByABC News
September 2, 2009, 8:27 AM

September 2, 2009 — -- The global recession put a damper on what are known as eco-cities, or big real estate developments that dramatically cut carbon emissions. The most notable delay has affected a major project planned for Dongtan, outside Shanghai. But with the recession easing and oil prices rising, plans to build such ultragreen model cities seem to be reviving.

Well-known projects such as the government-funded Masdar city in Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam's "smart city" are continuing. Meanwhile a host of other efforts from Finland to Arizona are in the works, many with a mix of government and private funding.

In July, for example, the first tenant moved into Eco City Hamburg-Harburg, just outside the German city of Hamburg. The project, developed by the global design firm tecArchitecture and engineering firm ARUP, is branded as a "sustainable creative-industrial environment." Its aim is to bring "large-scale industry and creative startups together in one cooperative and eco-friendly business community," its Web site says. Spaces range from studios to large warehouse and production facilities, which will house offices, hotels, retail spaces, and restaurants. Harburg is funded by private equity with some government loan assistance. Developers have already shelled out €25 million ($35 million) of the €120 million projected cost.

Like all eco-cities, Hamburg-Harburg trumpets its green credentials. Once the site of a comb factory, the 10-building mini-city is projected to reduce energy consumption by about 3 percent. Forthcoming buildings feature two large wind turbines atop high-rise towers that will generate more than 10 percent of the complex's power. Rent is about 25 percent below the average for central Hamburg, and the commute to the city takes just 20 minutes.