Essen, Germany
City population: 576013
Duration: 2003 – ongoing
Implementation status: Ongoing
Scale: Micro-scale: District/neighbourhood level
Project area: unknown
Type of area: Industrial, Previous derelict area
Last updated: October 2021

Zollverein is an abandoned colliery and coking plant near the center of Essen in Germany (Ref. 6). Since 1993 the mining here stopped, and the site was turned into a derelict area, so nature could win back its territory. Most of the railway tracks and the smaller industrial leftovers are now covered with moss, grass, and weeds (Ref. 4). After the site was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2001, it started being developed as a multifunctional cultural, tourist and recreational center keeping and developing biotopes that emerged over time (Ref. 11).


Nature-based solution

  • Grey infrastructure featuring greens
  • Railroad bank and track greens
  • Parks and urban forests
  • Pocket parks/neighbourhood green spaces
  • Intentionally unmanaged areas
  • Abandoned spaces with growth of wilderness or greens

Key challenges

  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Habitat and biodiversity restoration
  • Habitat and biodiversity conservation
  • Green space creation and/or management
  • Regeneration, land-use and urban development
  • Conversion of former industrial areas
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Environmental education
  • Economic development and employment (SDG 8)
  • Economic development: service sectors
  • Tourism support
  • Employment/job creation
  • Cultural heritage and cultural diversity
  • Protection of historic and cultural landscape/infrastructure


Transformation of previously derelict areas

Project objectives

1. To preserve the landmark of industrial culture of Ruhr region (Ref. 1) 2. To increase the number of tourist visits in the city (Ref. 1) 3. To preserve and increase the amount of highly endangered species in the industrial habitats of Essen (Ref. 2) 4. To offer replacement habitats for species and biotopes through integration into the concept of the protected monument (Ref. 2) 5. To attract innovative companies and design firms to the green post-industrial setting (Ref. 5) 6. To create open space for leisure and experience by combining post-industrial heritage with nature (Ref. 7) 7. To increase biodiversity at the former industrial brownfield (Ref. 7)

Implementation activities

1. The plant was shut down and natural biotopes were left to develop on the former industrial site (Ref. 4) 2. Master plan for reconstruction of the colliery developed (Ref. 5) 3. New walkways through the main railway yard of the coal mine constructed (Ref. 5) 4. Commercial redevelopment, musicalization, and the creation of green spaces (Ref. 6) 5. Natural tours at Zollverein organized (Ref. 9) 6. Almost 70 hectares offers facilities for leisure activities, such as a swimming pool, ice-skating rink, industrial nature, restaurants, and cafes provided (Ref. 12)

Biodiversity conservation or restoration-focused activities

Biodiversity conservation:

  • Protect and enhance urban habitats
  • Preserve and strengthen existing habitats and ecosystems
  • Promote environmentally-sound development in and around protected areas
  • Create new habitats
  • Protect species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect endangered species

Biodiversity restoration:

  • Rehabilitate and restore damaged or destroyed ecosystems
  • Restore endangered species

Main beneficiaries

  • Local government/Municipality
  • Non-government organisation/Civil Society
  • Private sector/Corporate/Company
  • Citizens or community groups
  • Other


Management set-up

  • Government-led

Type of initiating organisation

  • Local government/municipality
  • Citizens or community group
  • Other

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Unknown

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

1. The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex was awarded the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and is monitored by the UNESCO representatives (Ref. 1) 2. The architects responsible for reconstruction and master plan for a project redevelopment is Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) from Rotterdam as well as Böll and Krabel from Essen (Ref. 1). 3. The private business and companies rent spaces in the factory (Ref. 1) Ref

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? Yes (Natural biotopes that emerged since 1993 were preserved as a part of the complex of the mine. Legally it became possible due to UNESCO declaration that put the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen on the World Heritage List in 2001 (Ref. 1). )
... a national policy or strategy? Yes (Zeche Zollverein is part of the greater regional plan Emscher Park for an obsolete industrial region in the German Ruhrgebiet (Ref. 5). Emscher Park is a regional network of parks, open spaces, and paths (Ref. 7). The plan is supposed to turn heavy industrialized Ruhr metropolis into a green region and attract leisure functions, culture, innovative companies and design firms to the green post-industrial setting (Ref. 7). )
... a local policy or strategy? Yes (1. “North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) ERDF Objective 2 Programme 2000-06”, in which the “successful renewal of old (industrial sites) and setting-up of new infrastructures (innovation and technology centers, training facilities)” is mentioned as highly important (Ref. 12). 2. The strategy paper “Essen and the Ruhr Area: The development of tourism and the role of small firms and entrepreneurs 2010” identifies culture and (industrial) heritage as priorities for city tourism and the area’s sustainable development (Ref. 12).)


Total cost

More than €4,000,000

Source(s) of funding

  • EU funds
  • Public national budget
  • Public regional budget
  • Public local authority budget

Type of funding

  • Earmarked public budget
  • Direct funding or subsidy

Non-financial contribution


Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Green space and habitat
  • Increased green space area
  • Increased conservation or restoration of ecosystems
  • Reduced biodiversity loss
  • Increased protection of threatened species
  • Restoration of derelict areas

Economic impacts

  • Increase of jobs
  • More sustainable tourism
  • Attraction of business and investment

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Social justice and cohesion
  • Improved access to urban green space
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Gain in activities for recreation and exercise
  • Cultural heritage and sense of place
  • Protection of historic and cultural landscape / infrastructure
  • Increased sense of place identity, memory and belonging
  • Education
  • Increased knowledge of locals about local nature

Type of reported impacts

Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system


Presence of indicators used in reporting


Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports


Availability of a web-based monitoring tool

No evidence in public records