Expert Interview: Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann of Frankfurt © Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Foto: Frank Widmann Frankfurt is one of three German cities that has maintained a consistent top 10 position in Mercer’s annual Quality of Living City Rankings for more than 10 consecutive years, ranking 7th in the 2019 index. Elected in 2012, Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann is the current Mayor of Frankfurt, and many of the city’s recent successes can be attributed to his tireless efforts to maintain a balance between improving infrastructure, encouraging economic development, and addressing key social issues that promote a spirit of inclusiveness, openness, and collaboration. We recently chatted with Mr. Feldmann to discuss how he’s been able to keep Frankfurt thriving and growing for more than a decade now, all without compromising the city’s attractiveness or quality of life. Throughout the past 20 years, Frankfurt has consistently maintained or even improved its standard of living. What do you think have been some of the most successful initiatives for making this a reality? To give a few examples of initiatives and developments that have contributed to maintaining or improving the quality of life, the following are worth mentioning: Expansion and improvement of public transport. Upgrade of formerly less-attractive neighborhoods. Expansion and upgrading of public spaces (e.g. playgrounds, parks/green areas) and enabling access to riverbanks. Hosting of numerous major (international) festivals and open-air events. Supporting and encouraging the creative scene. Close cooperation with the greater FrankfurtRheinMain region (within 30 minutes around Frankfurt). On the other hand, as a city decision maker, what have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome to implement your quality-of-living ideas and best practices to create an attractive city for businesses, residents, and tourists? One of the biggest challenges has been to keep the balance between the interest in nature conservation and the supply of green spaces on the one hand, and the inherent need for positive business growth on the other. Another challenge has been maintaining the balance between the creation of new affordable housing alongside business expansions. Due to the population growth in our region, expansion of public transport remains a challenge as well. Finally, it will remain critical to further strengthen regional cooperation and international marketing in the years to come. If you could give some general tips for cities that are already thriving on how to improve their quality of living even more, what would you say? I would recommend concentrating on their unique features and continuing to work on them. In general, it is certainly advisable to extend and improve public transport, to involve citizens in shaping their neighborhoods, to upgrade the public spaces, and to offer sufficient green areas in combination with a wide range of cultural and leisure activities. Would you agree that a city’s talent and business attractiveness tend to correlate with higher living standards? Yes, I definitely agree. What do you believe should be the main priorities for Frankfurt over the next 20 years? Frankfurt's high attractiveness in terms of economic strength and quality of life draws many new residents and visitors. Maintaining its dynamism and developing the diverse characteristics and qualities that both our residents and visitors value so much will be some of Frankfurt's most important concerns. One key point in this context will be to promote and encourage the emerging creative scene in and around Frankfurt. Furthermore, Frankfurt has to keep pace with the pressing concerns of urban infrastructure, e.g. the development of affordable housing as well as expansion and improvement of transport and digital infrastructure. Since many foreigners move to Frankfurt, efforts should also be made to simplify and internationalize administrative procedures. At the same time, we have to make sure that there is enough attractive public space for citizens to meet and relax. In order to address these challenges, it is important that the city and the surrounding region work together and deepen their already existing cooperation and exchange. Dealing with all this at the same time and not losing the spirit of the city and its qualities is a challenging yet exciting task. Cities are striving to implement a range of new technologies and modern infrastructure in quest of improving the living standards of their residents. But at the same time, equally important matters such as globalization, gender parity, and diversity have also become important components of a city’s living standards. How important are these issues for the city of Frankfurt? For the acceptance and quality of life of a city, it is indispensable to respect, integrate, and involve all groups of population. Frankfurt only lives up to its status as a cosmopolitan and open-minded city if we are accepting and supporting the diversity of its citizens. A local democratic ecosystem is indispensable for a sustainable, healthy and manifold urban development. Would you be able to provide a few examples on how the city of Frankfurt tackled gender parity/diversity to improve the living standard of its residents (e.g.: increased security for women, dedicated infrastructure, etc.)? Frankfurt is a city with a highly heterogeneous social structure. Everyone is able to find his or her place and is given a fair chance here, regardless of nationality, gender, or religion. Of course, there are also some challenges that come with living in diverse places, but we always work to proactively address and overcome these issues. For example, the City of Frankfurt has a dedicated Women’s Unit dealing with the interests of female citizens. Special vocational training offers and programs for starting a business are available. However, our responsibility is not limited to one particular part of our population. Educational programs for children and young people, a wide range of cultural activities, and support of our highly diverse ecosystem through the creation of voluntary associations (such as the “Vereine”) increase social participation for everyone, and we consider all these initiatives to be equally important. It is a core principle for us to raise awareness among our citizens that their contribution to the democratic shaping of our city is desired and welcomed. After all, the diversity of our city is both our strength and our gain. What other cities have done a great job improving the living standards for residents over the past decade? Could you name few and why? Concerning this question, Amsterdam and Copenhagen come to mind, because as far as I am aware they have implemented projects and legislation which seem to be widely accepted by the population. How would you summarize Frankfurt today, and where you would like it to see it in the future? I believe it is fair to say that today Frankfurt is Germany’s most dynamic city. It is a cosmopolitan and highly international metropolis, in which economic prosperity and a high quality of life are combined in an ideal way. A great variety of people, businesses, and nationalities come together in Frankfurt. This exciting mixture helps to shape the city and give it the diversity that makes it so attractive and charming. In addition, many of the urban districts have their own unique character. Past discussions with foreign investors have sometimes shown that little is known about what Frankfurt and the surrounding region’s quality of life can truly offer. In the past, our image was not entirely positive. However, Frankfurt and the region at large have seen incredible progress in recent years and offer a wide range of opportunities. The number of tourists visiting Frankfurt rises to new records every year, and that’s because we have a number of famous museums, renowned orchestras, and a lively, extremely creative art and cultural scene. Frankfurt also has a lot to offer in culinary terms: in addition to our local specialties, our internationality brings us true-to-the-original specialties from all over the world. If you need a break from the urban lifestyle, Frankfurt is also surrounded by a great variety of natural, sometimes even world heritage sites: lakes, river landscapes, and several low mountain ranges contradict the image of a pure business hub. Despite its diversity, Frankfurt remains a city of short distances due to its relatively small size and close ties with the surrounding FrankfurtRheinMain region. Important places can be reached quickly, whether on foot in the city center or via the convenient transport network in and around the city. Many citizens call their city "the smallest metropolis in the world". This title expresses what makes the city so charming and special: living, working, shopping as well as leisure and recreation easily fit into a single day in Frankfurt. Moreover, Frankfurt makes networking and arriving easy because it is comparatively “small” and people here tend to be open, impartial, and tolerant. It is not uncommon for a total stranger to start a conversation with you and invite you to a glass of our local drink the famous apple wine. This is a very good base to start from for the coming years. One of Frankfurt's main priorities will be to maintain these qualities and standards that both our residents and visitors appreciate so much.