Glossy Future for a Has-Been Shipyard?
 
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Glossy Future for a Has-Been Shipyard?

      10/8/2001

Glossy Future for a Has-Been Shipyard?

Once the giant Gdansk Shipyard (Poland) where the Solidarity movement helped bring down Communism presents now mostly deserted buildings. The shipyard still produces ships, and business has actually picked up in the last two years. But after going bankrupt and nearly shutting down in 1996, it is a small fraction of its former size. Gdansk Shipyard needs to reinvent itself. Its traditional customers, governments in the old Soviet bloc, disappeared when Communism collapsed a decade ago. The shipyard was unable to compete on the open market against low-cost producers in Japan, Korea and China.

Today, things look better. After going bankrupt, Gdansk was bought by its less famous but more profitable rival, the nearby Gdynia Shipyard. Gdynia executives brought new work to Gdansk, which built and exported 10 cargo ships last year and now has orders to carry it through 2004. It also consolidated the shipbuilding onto about one-third of the original property. The work force, which shrank sharply after the demise of Communism, has edged up from 2,800 in 1998 to 3,500 today.

Mr. Lipinski, a president of Synergia 99, the company that now owns two-thirds of the shipyard's property, has a plan. He has spent the last year soliciting ideas from designers and architects around the world. The result so far is a 20-year "Vision Plan" that lays out a scheme for transforming the shipyard into Gdansk's new central business district. He sees "Solidarity Center," a hotel and conference complex. He sees "Toolmakers Street," a tree-lined promenade with cafes, shopping arcades and movie theaters. He sees the "Walk to Freedom," a central boulevard that leads past monuments to a marina.

None of this exists right now. Think of the South Street Seaport in New York or Baltimore's Inner Harbor a waterfront complex for offices, shopping and tourism. Then sprinkle in memories of Lech Walesa, Solidarity and the shipyard workers' protests here that helped topple Communism.

"This city has a rich history, which has a value," said Mr. Lipinski, "If business people come here, perhaps for a three- day conference, they will want to visit the shipyard and see where everything happened."


New York Times, 1 October 2001 By EDMUND L. ANDREWS  

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