Tearing down the neighbourhood

The council is tearing down five buildings. Three of these communal gems are pretty familiar, and all bar one within beagling distance, so last week we took a closer look.

Parallelvej 47

Kindergarten built in 1981 to serve the Nymarken area, a handful of streets made up of detached houses behind Avedøre’s big social developments. Never been there before – tucked behind the main road on the edge of the kommune bordering Vestvolden it’s all nice enough.

The 614m2 building, with its own kitchen, three bathrooms and nine toilets, closed for business on 10 May 2013 as it posed a danger to health. My first thought was asbestos, but a notice on the door blames damp and a bad smell. Two and a half years later it’s all a bit sad, with a broken climbing frame and weeds taking over.

The future of the site is not quite clear. At the beginning of 2014 a proposal for a two storey development made up of 10 low energy houses was approved after appeal, in line with Hvidovre’s policy for tæt-høj developments in areas close to stations. Now, according to the last council meeting minutes, it’s going to be four detached houses.

Meanwhile, plans to build a glossy new børnehave on Cirkusgrunden, a leftover piece of land closer to the business end of Avedøre, haven’t gone uncriticised. Slated to be ready in 2017/18, here’s hoping Lille Sky will make some concessions to its environment, or it will look like it has landed from Mars.

Not Risbjerggård, Hvidovrevej 243

Risbjerggård

Hvidovrevej 241

Hvidovrevej 243 is next door to one of the kommune‘s crown jewels, Risbjerggård, an old farmhouse from 1850. Following a sustained community campaign and a vote by the full council, Risbjerggård itself, or at least parts thereof, is saved and will now feature in some way in the new bymidte, but Projekthuset, which dates from 1936 and is actually joined on, is to be torn down. Doesn’t anyone care? It looks harmless enough from outside, but has been neglected and hence just doesn’t fit.

Update, 19 Dec: gone!

Biblioteksvej 60A

Bibloteksvej 60A-C

left to right: creche, fishing club, chess club

Featuring on our five walks reportoire, this part of Biblioteksvej is really just the badminton club’s parking lot plus a back way into Gungehusskolen. 60A, put up in 1972, is one of a row of buildings facing HBC-hallen, including a fishing club and a creche. On Monday the door was off and the facade was coming down. Today it will probably be gone.

Hvidovre chess club met here from 2003, sharing the tenancy with three other organisations, but gave it up in 2014 due to heating costs. The chessplayers now meet in Strandmarkens Fritidscenter, a former school on Enghavevej, along with the local bridge club.

The beags usually have a good sniff here on the lookout for anything tasty dropped by passing schoolchildren on the way back from the 7-Eleven at the nearby petrol station. This time we had a nosey round the back, finding a picnic table and a couple of benches, no doubt used for a beer and a smøg on summer evenings, contemplating the next move or maybe just exchanging pleasantries with the fisherfolk next door.

Disused toilet, Strandvej 31A

Again, rising costs have been the problem here. The red brick toilet at the harbour, one of Hvidovre’s few public toilets, dates from 1957. Due to annual cleaning costs of DK 65K it was closed in 2013, forcing those in need of a comfort stop to pop into one of the neighbouring clubhouses. Understandably aggrieved by this, these now restrict access to paying guests, via “get your door code at the till” systems.

The council installed a new toilet in the summer of 2013, partly financed by advertising. This kept breaking down – an eight year old boy locked himself in and had to be rescued – and was finally burned down a couple of months later by local vandals. It’s been replaced by one of those coin operated jobs, which seems to be functioning OK for now. This story has run since 2009.

Update, 17 Nov: a(nother) local fishing club applied to take over the old toilet building, but were refused permission. For shame!

Byvej 98

A typical red brick house from 1935, nr 4 on Hvidovre’s building register and still occupied by a range of clubs (Denmark is big on clubs), including the bee people and the petanque club, Byvej 98 looks in reasonable shape, so it’s not quite clear what the issue is. Probably, like Projekthuset, it just doesn’t fit any more.

A number of other buildings have stalled due to neglect and rising costs over the years, including the main post office on Hvidovrevej and the police station at Hvidovregade. There’s also a former old people’s home at Langkildevej 5-7, dating from 1975 and closed down in 2009. Owned by Copenhagen council, the site has been for sale for over three years, and it’s hoped that a new local plan adopted in May this year permitting housing on 50% of the site, both good old tæt-lav bebyggelse or flats, will finally kickstart things. Updates…Feb 2016: 64 house terrace on the way?…April 2016: now it’s 29.

We’ve had a good look round – as well as the main building there are two rows of sheltered housing behind. With nameplates still on the door, and in some cases curtains still hanging, it almost looks like the residents have just popped out to the shops.

In an area with a low tax base it’s probably inevitable that things drift in the hard times, but still, along with all the houses and trees going it seems there’s an unstoppable urge to follow current fashions with little heed to the area’s cultural heritage. Hvidovre has form here – unlike neighbouring kommune Brøndby few old buildings survived after 1930s council leader Arnold Nielsen commanded: “Riv det gamle lort ned!” Avedore landsby was only saved as it was part of Glostrup at the time.

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