One thing I saw in Hamburg that I thought was pretty cool was their massive HafenCity redevelopment project aimed at turning a really large obsolete waterfront district into a mixed-use urban center.

It’s hard to know for sure because a lot of it’s not done yet and obviously the global recession is going to slow things down, but it looks to be really well-executed with a good combination of uses, the creation of new infrastructure including a new metro line, etc.

The story behind the growth is interesting, too. Hamburg has been a port city for a long time, but for a while had come to be a somewhat peripheral player in European shipping, especially since Bremerhaven is the main German car export port. But with the collapse of Communism, Hamburg is suddenly centrally located in the new European map and is the main shipping hub for goods bound for the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, the Baltic area and to some extent beyond. Hamburg is also better-situated for shifting goods from ship to rail as opposed to from ship to truck, so it benefits from some growing concern about carbon emissions.

Consequently, the port had been having a real boom decade until the crisis and the ensuing collapse of trade hit. And doing such a large central city redevelopment will reduce the extent to which that just makes the city sprawl outward.