Current Urban Studies
2013. Vol.1, No.4, 87-91
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 87
The Role of Cultural Promotion As an Integral
Component of Leipzig’s Urban Development
Jean-Claude Garcia-Zamor
Public Administration, Florida International Univ e r sity, University Park, USA
Received May 23rd, 2013; revised July 1st, 2013; accepted July 15th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Jean-Claude Garcia-Zamor. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the origina l w o rk is properly cited.
After the reunification in 1990, Leipzig—as well as other East German cities—had to face the challenges
of the new political-administrative system and an open global economy. Through the systematic imple-
mentation of its evolving urban development strategies, the city has developed positively in many areas.
After the German reunification, most of Leipzig’s districts lacked cultural leisure services that would have
been fit for all age groups and close to their homes. In the early 1990s, the establishment of such urgently
needed socio-cultural centers was initiated on the one hand by official authorities and on the other by the
citizens themselves. Many newly founded associations and initiatives strove hard to maintain the existing
or to develop new cultural activities. In order to implement the latter, they were not only interested in the
already established cultural sites, but particularly in former industrial structures or other buildings with a
rich historical background. The best project in this effort is the world-famous Spinnerei. These urban en-
vironments offered vast opportunities for artists, the independent scene, cultural workers and creative in-
dustries alike. A large number of Leipzig’s cultural institutions originated from civic engagement and
were then, in times of economic recovery, incorporated into municipal ownership. Nowadays, they are
threatened to be re-privatized as the city’s means of cultural funding are gradually reaching their limits.
But Leipzig planning officials still think that the promotion of cultural projects in the neighborhoods pro-
vides a climate where culture is respectfully seen as a precious opportunity for urban development.
Through an extensive and varied offer of cultural activities, otherwise marginalized citizens can be inte-
grated in social life and participate in democratic processes.
Keywords: Integrated Planning; SEKo 2020; Cultural Promotion
Urban Development since 2000: Upward
Trend after the Paradigm Shift
At the beginning of the 20th century, Leipzig was one of the
four largest cities in Germany with a prosperous and diverse
economic structure. Due to the centralized system and the in-
ternational isolation of the former GDR, the city’s population
and importance decreased. After the reunification in 1990,
Leipzig—as well as other East German cities—had to face the
challenges of the new political-administrative system and an
open global economy. In comparison to other East German
cities, Leipzig has very early recognized ways of acquiring
fundings from higher administrative levels. Additionally, thanks
to the local municipality reform of 1999/2000, the limit of
500,000 inhabitants was reached, so that the city was eligible to
higher sums of subsidies. Together with the resulting increased
tax revenues, this promoted a sustainable urban development.
Through the systematic implementation of its evolving urban
development strategies, the city has developed positively in
many areas. Nowadays, the Saxon metropolis is a center of
economic, social and cultural life. Because of massive tax in-
centives, “global players” like BMW, Porsche, DHL and Ama-
zon settled in Leipzig in the early 2000s. An essential basis for
this positive trend of the recent years was Leipzig’s sophisti-
cated infrastructural system. In 2003, the “City Tunnel” as the
most important transportation project of the coming years was
The newly designed public spaces and the broad range of
educational, recreational and sports facilities have helped to
improve living conditions in the city. The overall appearance of
Leipzig has drastically improved due to various developments
such as the reduced environmental pollution, the renovation of
entire streets and the flooding of the former mining areas. Fur-
thermore, other factors such as culture and education are con-
tributing to the quality of life in the city. Cultural diversity is an
important pillar of Leipzig as a “city of citizens”. Subcultural
phenomena and institutionally funded cultural activities have
multiplied recently. The functional concept of culture is closely
linked to those of economy, education and social affairs. Since
all of these sectors are strongly interdependent, it seems only
consequential to organize and plan them in an integrative man-
ner. Therefore, a paradigm shift in Leipzig’s urban development
planning strategies could be observed around the turn of the
millennium. Until then, it used to strictly separate the different
departments and focused on isolated projects one at a time. The
excess capacities caused by shrinkage processes—vacant prop-
erties, underutilized infrastructures and unoccupied buildings of
various kinds—can only be used for urban development proc-
esses through integrated planning. That is why today, depart-
ments like economics, infrastructure or cultural development
are viewed in their common context. The different institutions
and players that are involved in urban development planning
processes have to communicate and to cooperate.
This integrated planning approach as it is manifested in the
Leipziger Stadtentwicklungskonzept 2020 (SEKo 2020) will be
discussed in the next section. Then cultural promotion will be
described as a possible way of developing urban areas. Fur-
thermore, the development of Leipzig’s cultural scene over the
past 20 years will be outlined. What role does “culture”, or
more precisely “social culture”, play in the thematic framework
of urban development? To what extent could it be “used” for
the latter and how can it be funded in practice? To pursue these
questions, my research assistant interviewed the district man-
ager of Leipziger Westen, Mrs. Peggy Diebler, who described
the implementation practices that were implemented in the
districts of Lindenau and Plagwitz.
Leipzig’s Urban Development Plan “SEKo
2020” as an Integrative Approach
Cross-linking different sectors, “SEKo 2020” provides a
binding framework that serves as a guideline for the develop-
ment of the city in the years to come. It is the basis for budget
planning and sets priorities for the future use of municipal
funds and grants by designating main topics and priority areas
of action. A key package of measures and specific implementa-
tion options was developed to reach the objectives defined by
SEKo 2020. The concept is a basis for goal-oriented cross-
departmental actions not only within the local urban develop-
ment authorities, but also for the cooperation with various
stakeholders outside the municipal administration. That kind of
inclusiveness is a required condition for any project applying
for funding to the Free State of Saxony. Another cross-depart-
mental funding option is the European Regional Development
Fund (ERDF). In contrast, other programs like the federally
funded Stadtumbau Ost (urban restructuring in East Germany)
are rather project-oriented. They are neither limited to certain
areas, nor do they require the cooperation of the applicants and
local actors. To be financed from federal or other funding pots,
projects must above all fulfill the requirement of sustainability.
Extensive discussions during the preparation of SEKo have
created new structures of communication and coordination
within the Leipzig city council. These need to be maintained
and even intensified in order to ensure an efficient implementa-
tion of SEKo. Among other things, this concerns the coopera-
tion with municipal subsidiaries, in particular the housing and
construction company in Leipzig (Leipziger Wohnungs-und
Baugesellschaft, LWB), the municipal waterworks (Kom-
munale Wasserwerke Leipzig, KWL) and the energy supplier
“Stadtwerke Leipzig” (SWL). Just as important is the interac-
tion with non-administrative players such as clubs, individuals
or local businesses.
The integrated urban development plan SEKo 2020 will
eventually be successful. Even if the objectives set for 2020
cannot be entirely reached by then, it is planned to further pur-
sue the concept. With regularly scheduled monitoring and eva-
luation, it will continue to evolve.
Cultural Promotion as a Component
of Urban Development
After the German reunification, most of Leipzig’s districts
lacked cultural leisure services that would have been fit for all
age groups and close to their homes. In the early 1990s, the
establishment of such urgently needed socio-cultural centers
was initiated on the one hand by official authorities (the mu-
nicipality and the Kulturamt) and on the other by the citizens
themselves. Six initially municipal buildings are now inde-
pendently operated. The city has not only subsidized this trans-
formation but is also responsible for the structural maintenance
of the houses. By the mid-90s, several socio-cultural centers
were privatized, but only a few of them retained their function
as cultural sites. Many newly founded associations and initia-
tives strove hard to maintain the existing or to develop new
(albeit sometimes only temporary) cultural activities. In order
to implement the latter, they were not only interested in the
already established cultural sites, but particularly in former
industrial structures or other buildings with a rich historical
background. These urban environments offered vast opportuni-
ties for artists, the independent scene, cultural workers and
creative industries alike. In that way, several districts—primar-
ily Plagwitz and Neulindenau—have developed a characteristic
neighborhood culture which is not at all defined by institutions
of the so called high culture (although they consume a large
portion of the city’s cultural budget). Instead, independent sub-
cultural phenomena are constitutive elements. By now, the larg-
est and best known of these probably is the “Baumwollspinne-
rei” complex at the western extremity of Karl-Heine-Straße.
Socio-cultural facilities like the “Mühlstraße e.V.” in Leip-
zig’s east are important focal points and drivers of cultural and
social life in the district. They boost active citizenship and play
an important role in the process of integration of marginalized
population groups into the social fabric. Certain negative ef-
fects of demographic change (such as loneliness in old age, to
name just one example) can be mitigated through them. The
municipal funding of socio-culture has to start, where both
deficits in the existing supply structure and potentials for future
development can be observed. If urgently needed, new facilities
with additional services can of course be created. Cultural pro-
motion, however, is primarily designed to stabilize the net-
works that are already in place. Hence, Leipzig’s culture is
shaped by the successful coexistence of private creative busi-
nesses as well as public institutions and the publicly funded
independent scene—the latter certainly suffering less from the
pressure of being economically efficient. That freedom gives
them the opportunity—but also the obligation—to work on an
elevated artistic level and to be highly innovative and experi-
mental at the same time. Nevertheless, socio-culture must—just
like the private sector—take into account the financial situation
of their respective target group. As a result of declining net
incomes in certain districts, as well as an increasing proportion
of mini- and midi-jobbers or recipients of welfare benefits, it is
necessary to adapt concepts and projects in order to meet the
changed demands of the stakeholders and to actively prevent a
loss in revenues.
A large number of Leipzig’s cultural institutions originated
from civic engagement and were then, in times of economic
recovery, incorporated into municipal ownership. Nowadays,
they are threatened to be re-privatized as the city’s means of
cultural funding are gradually reach their limits. Given the cur-
rent economic situation, the preservation of cultural networks is
far from being granted. It should be remembered, that Leipzig’s
diverse cultural landscape functions as a decisive advantage for
the city in a way that cultural funding is also an important in-
Open Access
vestment in the development of the local economy.
Socio-Cultural Promotion and the Rise of the
Creative Economy in Leipzig’s Current Urban
Development Concept “SEKo 2020”
The city of Leipzig derives its basic objectives of cultural
promotion from the cultural development plan of the years
2008 to 2015. Urban cultural institutions continuously aim to
expand their offers for people of all ages and to develop new
ideas targeted to specific groups. Through increased networking
and cooperation among themselves as well as with third parties,
Leipzig’s cultural institutions seek to use their potentials in a
more efficient way in order to reinforce the city’s regional,
national and international impact. Due to urban demographic
changes, socio-spatial differentiations will be necessary in ad-
dition to the spatial focuses SEKo 2020 calls for. Educating the
social and cultural skills of the population is a possible way of
countering the downward spiral in which some districts are
stuck. The overall aims are to strengthen socio-culture as a
“resonating space” for the formation of public opinion and to
contribute to lifelong learning. For this purpose, socially inclu-
sive, inter-generational and multicultural approaches are pur-
sued. Their potentials range from the development of new
forms of communication to the implementation of model pro-
jects and the establishment of efficient networks. Moreover,
socio-culture may very well provide impulses for the artistic
cultural scene. Creative industries grow best in cities which,
like Leipzig, emanate an omnipresent historical aura and have
countless unique features. A generally culture-positive atmos-
phere, an adequate supply of reasonably priced premises and a
sufficient number of cultural institutions and events are vital
conditions for a prospering socio-culture and successful crea-
tive industries. As these preserve and even help creating new
jobs—which represents a major goal of the general SEKo 2020
policy—they support future economic growth and thus ulti-
mately assist urban development.
Implementation Practices—Cultural Promotion
from the Perspective of Stakeholders
To gain insight into the practical implementation of urban
development strategies in a cultural context, we asked Mrs.
Peggy Diebler about her personal experiences as the district
manager of Plagwitz and Lindenau. The interview took place in
July 2011 and consisted of five questions that are summarized
in the following five sections.
Cultural Promotion and Its Role in the Work of the
District Manager of Plagwitz and Lindenau
The promotion of cultural projects in the neighborhood pro-
vides a climate, where culture is respectfully seen as a precious
opportunity for urban development. The management of the
districts Lindenau and Plagwitz is partly responsible for the
distribution of the Verfügunsfonds means. Therefore, they are
mainly looking for cooperation partners, such as the “IG Kultur
West” and the “Westbesuch e.V.”, who explicitly combine cul-
ture with urban development. In order to get financial support
from the available funds, it is not at all necessary to be a mem-
ber to one of these clubs, but more importantly to furnish crea-
tive ideas.
On multiple levels, arts and culture play into the work of the
district management. Mrs. Diebler differentiates three kinds of
cultural promotion that are currently being practiced in Leipzig.
First, she mentions the municipal funding of the city’s existing
facilities and institutions. Secondly, she names the subsidization
of services that are not in municipal sponsorship. This alloca-
tion of money by the department of culture (“Kulturamt”) to
specific projects is called Fachförderung. In addition to these
two funding methods, a third way of cultural promotion enables
“unofficial” cultural organizations and initiatives to apply for
funds from different programs and funds on a municipal, fed-
eral or even European level.
According to Mrs. Diebler, culture is heavily linked to the
economy, especially in the field of creative industries, where
profit-orientation and a “non-profit attitude” are closely inter-
The Public Perception of Cultural Diversity in
Plagwitz and Lindenau
The districts’ basic cultural institutions—such as the Musi-
kalische Komödie or the Theater der jungen Welt—are in mu-
nicipal hands. Well-known cultural sites like the Felsenkeller or
the Schaubühne Lindenfels date back to the 1920s and thus
represent constitutive elements of the neighborhood’s history
which always had a vivid culture of entertainment. This is as
true today—plenty of people come here especially because of
the districts’ renowned cultural scene. The public perception of
Plagwitz as a “hip art district” is also strongly related to the fact,
that the studios of artists with a worldwide reputation (like Neo
Rauch, for instance) are located there. Plagwitz and Lindenau
are thus a magnet for those who are interested in the fine arts
but also for people who intent to express themselves culturally.
Since the vacancy rate is still at a fairly high level, the rents are
still relatively inexpensive which makes the districts easily
accessible even for people with limited financial resources.
Moreover, Leipzig West is considered as the cradle of the
Wächterhäuser movement that makes decaying houses avail-
able to people who are willing (and able) to renovate and main-
tain these architectural structures. Against a very small fee,
these “guardians of the historical buildings” can freely realize
their own projects. Additionally, many former industrial sites
with large rooms and halls that can easily be adapted to new
utilization concepts are still vacant. The Baumwollspinnerei
with its large number of studios, event spaces, residences and
commercial premises was one of the first cultural pioneers to
make use of these potentials. Other important meeting points
for the cultural scene and creative industries are the Tapeten-
werk, the Westwerk or the Alte Handelsschule in Kleinzscho-
cher. The Karl-Heine-Straße, Zschochersche Straße, Linde-
nauer Markt or Georg-Schwarz-Straße are actually agglomera-
tions of numerous individual centers of culture. Many of their
former retail spaces have been transformed into galleries, bars
or various project spaces. Associations like the Westbesuch e.V.
with their cultural activities around the Karl-Heine-Straße have
had a decisive impact on the development of the neighborhood.
People began to rethink the objectives and conditions of socio-
cultural work: Although cultural initiatives coming from out-
side the respective districts were openly accepted, serious ef-
forts were made to stimulate the locals’ participation in cultural
activities. Plenty of occasions such as the Westpaket, the West-
besuch, the Lindenauer Nacht or various other festivals give the
Open Access 89
residents abundant opportunities of creatively working together.
This has led to a positive climate of cooperation or at least of
peaceful coexistence, even though according to Mrs. Diebler,
smaller frictions sometimes are inevitable.
A Short Description of Cultural Promotion in the
Districts Supervised by Mrs. Diebler
Culture is promoted by several different sources that are
working entirely independently. For instance, the Kulturstiftung
des Freistaates Sachsen is not subsidized by the city of Leipzig.
Areas of intensified intervention have been defined by a com-
prehensive strategy for urban development. The west of Leipzig
is considered separately since 1999, when several “lighthouse”
sites were promoted in the course of the world fair “Expo
2000”. Subsequently, the European funding program “Urban II”
distributed the available means to a greater variety of small
projects. Since 2009, Leipzig West is mainly funded by that
program. Altogether, these European subsidies positively ac-
celerated the local development of Plagwitz and Lindenau. The
various small associations and initiatives were able to profes-
sionalize a part of their work. The experiment “Urban II” has
impressively shown the benefits of discussing the distribution
of funds within a large group of stakeholders. Officials and
employees of local businesses as well as civil representatives
and members of non-profit organizations participated in the
negotiations. This kind of open dialogue is still practiced at
present. However, this democratic and integrated approach to
cultural funding is still in its infancy. Stakeholders reportedly
still tend to strictly separate such fields as music, theater or the
fine arts instead of perceiving them as highly interdependent.
Mrs. Diebler is optimistic, that all of these facets of cultural life
will converge over the course of future debates on urban de-
Difficulties and Possible Improvements in the Work
of a District Manager
It would be desirable that Leipzig generally decides much
earlier about the city’s annual budget planning. Only in this way,
cultural organizations and initiatives can be guaranteed safety
for the realization of their projects.
Because numerous official authorities are involved in the or-
ganization of cultural events, it would really help to have an
expert who could be contacted whenever questions arise in the
bureaucratic jungle. This kind of position has already been
applied for to the “creative cities” program a long time ago but
still hasn’t been put into action.
Mrs. Diebler is hoping, that people keep up the good work
and hold on to their great enthusiasm, even after the subsidies
of the European Regional Development Fund expired.
Mrs. Diebler’s View on and Wishes for the Future
of Certain Cultural Projects
When it comes to the development chances of certain areas,
Mrs. Diebler attributes prominent long term effects to the recent
developments around Lindenauer Markt and Georg-Schwarz-
Straße, as well as to privately funded projects such as the
Baumwollspinnerei, the Tapetenwerk, the Westwerk and the Alte
Handelsschule in Kleinzschocher. In these locations, the stake-
holders involved in socio-culture and creative industries show a
remarkably enthusiastic commitment to their work. Mrs. Die-
bler therefore calls them “charitable”, even though the projects
in question partly are profit-oriented economic institutions.
Another very big opportunity is located on the Karl-Heine-
Straße, where as a result of the cooperation between the Schau-
bühne Lindenfels and the more recently opened Lindenfels-
Westflügel an important center for the art of puppet theater
(Figurentheater) is about to emerge.
If the current negotiations between Deutsche Bahn and the
municipal authorities are successful, the city could purchase the
very large area around the Plagwitzer Bahnhof and turn it into a
park or forest. As a result, even more people, associations or
companies will be attracted to the surrounding neighborhoods,
because a large open space like this will entice people to use it
in multiple different ways. In the first rounds of public hearings,
residents, professionals, architects, designers and artists already
have enthusiastically attended to the meetings.
For the cultural revival of Leipzig’s west in the long term, it
is important that people who are actively taking part in certain
projects keep on doing so. Till now, most of the protagonists
who are working for associations and initiatives are people who
are studying or have spare time for other reasons, e.g. because
they are stay-at-home parents. When these people enter or re-
enter their professional career, they will have significantly less
time available for their former hobbies. The situation in their
respective clubs may then take a drastic turn for the worse,
explains Mrs. Diebler. That is why she thinks that the biggest
potential lays within projects that are carried out by stake-
holders who can connect and harmonize their cultural commit-
ment with their professional caree r.
Conclusions and Outlook
A well-functioning cultural promotion may in multiple ways
have a positive influence on the development of neighborhoods.
It might put a stop to the downward spiral in which several of
Leipzig’s districts are trapped at the moment. Through an ex-
tensive and varied offer of cultural activities, otherwise margin-
alized citizens can be integrated in social life and participate in
democratic processes. Moreover, the livability and the outward
image of the neighborhood can be improved. In the near future,
cultural funding will probably play an even more important role
in the context of urban development. The relatively young con-
cept of integrative plan for urban development will probably be
a long work in progress in the course of which municipal au-
thorities and external actors must certainly work together more
closely. Old ways of thinking in a closed system must be re-
placed by open-mindedness. A diverse cultural scene cannot
survive without the voluntary work of the citizens.
Hope for the future of Leipzig’s independent cultural scene
was instilled by a recent decision of the city council. On July 18,
2012 the never implemented policy (dating back to 2008) to
allocate five percent of the city’s cultural budget to the inde-
pendent scene was finally activated. Although the level of the
original funding is far from being reached today, the subsidies
transferred next year will exceed those of 2012 by 600.000€
(US$780,000). In the following two years there ought to be an
annual increase of 320.000€ (US$415,000) each year. If this
time, the municipal authorities keep their promises, this would
definitely be a great success for the independent cultural scene.
The five percent that were originally promised for 2013 will
then finally be disbursed in 2015. In the long run, they are
needed to implement more projects and create new jobs.
Open Access
Open Access 91
Author Biography
The author is a professor of Public Administration at Florida
International University. From 1999 to 2007 he was doing
research and teaching at Leipzig University every summer. In
June 2007, he was designated an Honorarprofessor of that
university. He returned to Leipzig University in May 2013 for
his fiftheen consecutive summers there.
Cultural Department of the City of Leipzig (2008). Kulturentwick-
lungsplan der Stadt Leipzig für die Jahre 2008- 2 015.
Cultural Department of the City of Leipzig (2011). Kulturentwick-
lungsplanung. Entwicklungskonzept 2011-2015. Soziokultur.
Department of Urban Development of the City of Leipzig (2009). Leip-
zig 2020. Integrativ es Stadtentwicklungskonz ept (SEKo).
Diebler, P. District manager of Leipziger Westen that includes the two
major districts of Lindenau and Plagwitz. She was interviewed in
July 2011 by Peter Vollmar, one of my research assistants at Leipzig
Reitler, T. (2012). Leipzig Plus Kultur. Abgerungener Erfolg.