What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Social projects are often difficult to realise in popular cities because they are not only very expensive, but suitable projects are usually snatched away by conventional users. These simply have a speed advantage due to the faster committee approvals. Against this background, we were very pleased to be able to lease the former St. Hildegard Centre for the Elderly in Düsseldorf-Garath to the non-profit Graf Recke Foundation. It was important to the operator and previous owner of the old people's centre, who had newly built on the neighbouring property, that the building should continue to be used for a social purpose in the future. Thus, the new tenant is building a facility for socially assisted living for children, young people and adults with special needs or mental disabilities in the listed building, which is centrally located in Düsseldorf.
The area is also embedded in an urban development project. The aim is to make the district fit for the future. Based on a well-founded analysis and the multi-level participation of residents and stakeholders, a concept for the further development of the district was developed: "Garath 2.0 - Shaping Change". The challenge here was to convince the stakeholders involved to establish a children's and youth facility in Garath and to dispel prevailing fears and prejudices.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
Anyone who works in the real estate sector is certainly familiar with it: especially with listed buildings, planning permission processes can take a very long time. That's why we took a multi-pronged approach to this project right from the start, initiating and driving forward many processes in parallel. This meant that many points had already been taken care of that could normally only be tackled after planning permission had been granted.
In addition, we used our network to involve the administration, local politicians and local citizens at an early stage. In the subsequent voting and participation process, we were able to inspire the overwhelming majority for the project.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?
As a sustainable bank, Triodos Bank is very important to us. We chose Triodos Bank because its philosophy fits us best - and not because it is economically driven. Triodos Bank understands the special issues involved in financing such a property for a social institution much better than other commercial banks. The contact persons simply know their stuff and are much more flexible when it comes to dealing with special issues. The relationship level was very important to us from the beginning.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
We want to show in the special field of social real estate that this sector can function differently and is not only driven by numbers. Especially with the project in Düsseldorf-Garath, we illustrate that maximum profitability does not always have to be the decisive factor. A property can only be managed sustainably if it fits into the structure of the neighbourhood and is not seen as a foreign body.
What impact has your business had on the community?
We are very happy that we succeed in generating a double benefit: It is not a disgrace to generate a return, but at the same time it makes us happy to advance something good. As entrepreneurs, we live up to our social responsibility and give something back to the local people. That releases feelings of happiness. We could have pursued other plans with the site - and applied for a boarding house there, for example. But we consciously decided on our social solution. Instead, we wanted to create a lighthouse project with a very long-term use perspective for the entire neighbourhood.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank has supported us from the very beginning in developing our vision of a pioneering social centre and implementing it together with the Graf Recke Foundation. Because Triodos Bank, like us, believes that the sustainability of a property is also reflected in its form of use - while retaining the very special architecture of the renowned architect Gottfried Böhm - and in the way it fits into the neighbourhood.