Would you live in a town built by Ikea? A couple years ago, the question might have sounded like a silly thought experiment. But in 2011, LandProp, the development arm of the organization (Inter Ikea Group) that owns Ikea’s intellectual property, announced plans to build a planned vehicle-free community outside London. Those plans have since firmed up, with construction expected to start next year. Now Ikea is expanding its empire: Landprop announced this month that it’s building another community in Hamburg, Germany--also virtually car-free.
Ikea hasn’t revealed specific plans for the community, but it will probably resemble the future London Strand East development, according to local paper the Hamburger Abendblatt. That means there will be plentiful public areas and pedestrian walkways, cars will park at the development’s entrance in an underground garage, and only delivery trucks, buses, and emergency vehicles will be allowed to drive inside. In Strand East there will be 1,200 homes for rent, 40% of which will be large enough to accommodate families. We do know that both planned developments will be built in currently empty lots--Ikea won’t be bulldozing neighborhoods to create its home empire; it’s looking for 12 acres to build on in the German city.
The creation of a car-free community "goes back to the Ikea philosophy of doing something for the people," explained Harald Muller, managing director of LandProp, in an interview with Co.Exist last year. Ikea developments also have a "Swedish philosophy mentality," according to Muller. In the case of the London development, that means constructing buildings with high energy efficiency and extensive insulation to make it through those cold Swedish winters (or any winters, really). Chances are, the Hamburg development will be built with similar ideas in mind.
Don’t pack up your Billy bookcases and Lack side tables quite yet. German Newspaper Der Spiegel spoke to at least one real estate executive who has doubts that the development will ever make it off the ground:
"German urban development is very clearly regulated," Schulten says. When large areas do become available, he continues, their purpose has already been designated years in advance. Indeed, Schulten believes that IKEA won’t be able to achieve real-estate dominance in Germany "because other investors have already been waiting in the wings for a long time."
If it doesn’t work out, locals can take solace in the 100 budget hotels throughout Europe that Ikea is planning. The first hotel--in Germany--will open in 2014.