“Heyme stages Wagner on the original site” – that was the headline of the Frankfurt Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung when Ludwigshafen’s Theater im Pfalzbau staged “Das Rheingold” (The Rhine Gold), the first part of Richard Wagner’s opera tetralogy “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (The Ring of the Nibelung).
The area surrounding Worms, only a few kilometres north of Ludwigshafen, is considered the original location of the Saga of the Nibelungs. Theatre manager Heyme, when presenting the Ring project in Ludwigshafen, explained that he was convinced that the legendary treasure of the Nibelungs could not have been sunk anywhere else in the Rhine than near the northern city district Edigheim.
So far, nobody has yet found the treasure, but for anyone striving for wealth through ideas, diligence and hard work, Ludwigshafen is the place to be. If the city rankings compiled by the Wirtschaftswoche and the Initiative for a New Social Market Economy are correct, Ludwigshafen is “the best city for companies”.
The second-largest city in Rhineland-Palatinate, together with its twin city Mannheim on Baden-Württemberg’s side of the Rhine, constitutes the industrial core of the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. Ludwigshafen ranks among the most productive cities in Germany with a gross domestic product of 83,800 euros per person employed. Only Düsseldorf and Frankfurt achieve an even higher value.
A significant part of this added value can be attributed to the BASF, which operates not only the largest but also one of the world’s most effective and innovative chemical production sites at its headquarters in Ludwigshafen. If BASF is “The Chemical Company”, then Ludwigshafen is the chemical city.
Other companies such as Giulini, Raschig or Reckit Benckiser are also part of the chemical site Ludwigshafen. For AbbVie, for example, Ludwigshafen is the most important location for pharmaceutical research outside the United States. Of the 2,000 employees at the location, 900 scientists are involved in developing new medication to treat AIDS, Alzheimer’s or other diseases.
The chemical industry is by far the most important industrial sector of the city, but even so, it only accounts for a little more than a third of employment. Especially in the last few years, the city’s economic basis has been enlarged by a targeted establishment of companies from other sectors.
New jobs have been created, particularly in mechanical engineering, retail, communication and information technologies as well as in food production.
The world’s leading manufacturer of road pavers, Joseph Vögele AG, has moved its base to Ludwigshafen and has built a new plant in the south of the city. Deutsche Telekom AG accommodates several hundreds of jobs in the region in a new building in the Rheinallee. Next door, a new office building for BASF employees is being developed and the old-established pump manufacturer Halberg Maschinenbau has put up a new administration building just a stone’s throw away in 2013. The regional bakery Görtz has moved its head office and production back to its place of origin in Ludwigshafen and supplies more than 100 bakery chains every day from the new bakery house in the city district Rheingönheim.
Ludwigshafen is a changing city. This is nothing new to us, as change and transformation have been and still are a constant companion in the history of our young city. Ludwigshafen represents the only successful founding of a new city in inland Germany in the 19th century. Although the city bears the name of a Bavarian king, its real success is almost exclusively due to its citizens. Ludwigshafen has not been established on the basis of a monarchical will, but because of the initiative of its entrepreneurs and the diligence of the people. This is a tradition that we feel obliged to follow and which results in a great openness regarding the interests of companies and founders of new businesses. Ludwigshafen was and is a place for people who are open to change and who are willing to change something themselves, who actively want to shape a piece of the future for themselves and for others – simply put, it is a great place for entrepreneurs.
Even though change is part of our tradition, the changes of recent years are of particular significance. The changes along the banks of the Rhine are the most evident ones. The entire riverbank of the Rhine in Ludwigshafen has been a port and industrial area for a long time. A modern shopping centre with 130 stores was built on the site of the former container port upstream of the city centre, including trendy brand stores such as Desigual or Hollister, which are still rather rare in Germany. Next to it, a new urban space has been created with the Platz der Deutschen Einheit, opening up the city centre to the Rhine. The city centre location next to the Rhine is unique in the region. It enables locals and visitors alike to experience Ludwigshafen as a city on the Rhine. On the edge of the former port area, the old hangar, placed under protection as a historical building, is being turned into the new headquarters of an advertising agency. With the Rheinufer Süd and Parkinsel, the best residential areas of the city are located in immediate proximity in the south. The development of Parkinsel started in 1900. The old and park-like tree population and a certain level of remoteness in a rather central location due to the island position have always made it one of the most beautiful residential areas in the metropolitan region. The Parkinsel has been home to the “Festival of German Film” since 2005, which attracts the stars of German cinema to Ludwigshafen each year in summer.
The development of the adjacent onshore district Rheinufer Süd as a residential area only began in recent years. A total of more than 700 high-class apartments will be built here. The demand in the first development blocks has grown so rapidly that the area can already be considered one of the most popular residential areas in the metropolitan region.
Apart from this top-level segment, there are attractive development areas with detached and semi-detached houses for young families in the city districts, especially in Rheingönheim and Oggersheim. This may be – alongside the targeted establishment of companies outside of the chemical industry – the most profound change in Ludwigshafen. The city has long maintained its outdated self-image as a working-class city and its housing policy was unilaterally focused on the construction of floor areas. By now, the development areas are tailored to the needs of the small and medium-sized businesses.
Small and medium-sized businesses appreciate Ludwigshafen’s central location in the metropolitan region, its excellent transport connections, a comprehensive range of educational and childcare facilities as well as its attractive price-quality ratio, especially on the housing market. The city with the – on average – highest paid jobs in the region is also gaining attractiveness as a place of residence. The demand is growing, but the market is not overpriced yet. This situation is not only interesting for those looking for housing accommodations but also for the real estate industry. Various project developers, in addition to the new construction sector, are committed to the high-quality renovation and refurbishment of old buildings. The Pantera AG, for example, is restoring the Wislicenushöfe, which were built between 1918 and 1920, with 260 apartments in the northern city centre. In the city district Friesenheim north of the city centre, the Luwoge GmbH is renovating the Hohenzollernhöfe, which date back to 1923, with 160 apartments.
The development in Ludwigshafen’s real estate industry is met with great interest, even on a nationwide basis. As the magazine “Capital” recently stated: “The city has rid itself from its reputation as the centre of attraction of the chemical industry. With the Rheinufer Süd district, one of the best residential areas of the region was established out of nothing. Now, the old workers’ housing estates are made respectable again. Ludwigshafen has done it, and it has caught up with Mannheim and Heidelberg.”
Naturally, I am very pleased to receive so much recognition related to the change in Ludwigshafen. But honestly speaking: “Ludwigshafen has done it” is a sentence that does not really match the city’s mentality. Ludwigshafen will remain true to itself – and by that it will also continue to change. We will remain open to change and people with creative ideas.
The author studied law and has performed various activities as an administrative lawyer. She lectured at the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences in Mannheim from 1996 until 2001. Since 2002, she has been mayor of Ludwigshafen am Rhein and, since 2006, chairwoman of the Rhine-Neckar Regional Association. She has been also became vice-president of the German Association of Cities in 2013.