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Zurich West - district on the move

Zurich West - district on the move
Construction equipment everywhere, weekly changing detours for cars and pedestrians and fast growing towers and buildings: Zurich In Your Pocket took a closer look at Zurich West, the city’s fastest changing district.

At the northern end of the Hardbrücke, the bridge which connects Zurich West with the parts of the city beyond the many railway tracks, workers are painting the final white lines onto the fresh road surface. After more than two years of work, the refurbishment of the bridge is almost complete. Zurich’s drivers will finally have their lifeline back with all lanes operative. But this is just one of many major projects in the district that will be finished this autumn. The Prime Tower ust next to Hardbrücke for example, Switzerland’s tallest building and Zurich’s new landmark is about to welcome its first tenants. And in December, the new tram line connecting Escher-Wyss-Platz with Zurich Altstetten will go into service. This August already the Zurich Renaissance Tower Hotel situated only a few hundred metres west of the Prime Tower will open its 300 rooms on 14 stories. When we were able to visit in early July, the construction site was still very busy. But if the work of the literally hundreds of builders is as well coordinated as it looked, we’re sure that everything will be finished on time.

Zurich West is where Zurich is still growing. The growth is typical inward development. What were once the industrial lands of Zurich is now visibly becoming the city’s busiest business and entertainment district. Of course this development didn’t set in just a couple of years ago. In fact it has been some decades since industry was at the centre of life in Zurich West. In the nineties innovative gastronomes started using the free space and set up restaurants and clubs with a provisional charm in abandoned factories and freaks who believed in their ideas established small businesses. Since the millennium big real-estate companies have moved in, constructing ever more office and housing projects. In a couple of years the area is expected to have up to 8‚000 inhabitants (at the turn of the century there were 2‚000) and 40‚000 jobs.

Downsides and opportunities
This all has its downsides too. Clubs which found affordable space in abandoned buildings are being kicked out and small businesses are having to look for other premises, because the buildings they’re in are making way for new ones. Some of the new architecture is snobbishly ugly and many of the newly built apartments are far too expensive to alleviate the increasingly urgent lack of affordable housing in Zurich. On the other hand this development is also a chance for the city. Zurich will finally get an up-to-date football stadium. The Zurich University of the Arts will get a new, larger location in one-time dairy factory Toni Molkerei now that the club which had to move out lost in court (opening 2013).

Nevertheless the district has kept some of its industrial character and a walk through the area reveals the different layers of history here. For example on Geroldstrasse, just opposite the Prime Tower, a couple of clubs and restaurants still hold the line in some shacks underneath the bridge. Some projects have managed to connect the past with the future: e.g. the Schiffbau, an old industrial hall now hosting one of the city’s main theatre stages, a club, a restaurant and a bar. Or the Puls 5, where the hall of a foundry became something like a roofed village square with restaurants and shops surrounding it.

Zurich West is definitely on the move. Everywhere. Or let’s say almost everywhere. One building on Turbinenstrasse right in between the Prime Tower and the Renaissance Hotel is putting up resistance. The owners of the house built in 1893 don’t want to sell to make room for the new street accessing the new site, as the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported recently. It might take up to two years until a court has settled the case. At least until then the house will stand where it is, as a reminder of other times.

Restaurants & Bars in Zurich West:
- LaSalle
- Les Halles
- Rosso
- Nietturm Bar

- Exil
- Labor
- Helsinki

- Senator
- Renaissance Tower Hotel
- Novotel

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