CityZen – the new vision of urban living designed with community in heart and mind

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 03/03/2023 | 17:49

Urban regeneration projects are in their infancy in Romania, compared with other European metropolises, for instance. As an innovative approach, people are not yet confident of the possibilities it brings. Another factor is time. For decades, people have gotten used to things staying the same and it does take some effort and time to change the status quo. However, many positive projects are taking place in this arena, at the national level, and authorities are being cautious in the measures they take to stamp out questionable projects.


The potential of urban renewal projects in Romania is unrevealing on time, as big cities grow. Thus, cities depend on their inner areas. The unoccupied land and the built structures could serve diverse communities of professionals, students, and families. This is how the CityZen project started to unfold. The postindustrial project will help densify the existing urban nucleus. This in turn will offer a sustainable long-term plan for living, working, and leisure. Not only will the local community enjoy it, but a larger number of users will as well.

“As the name suggests, we wanted to create a peaceful yet vibrant atmosphere on these premises. It represents an area that endured a fearless history, and we want to give it the honor it deserves. The best way to do this is to put it to the best service for its users. Answering the needs of the community is the way forward. We know well that harmony resides where inhabitants’ needs come first.” – stated Didier Balcaen, CEO and Founder at Speedwell

Speedwell’s experience in urban regeneration

CityZen is not the company’s first urban regeneration development undertaken in Romania. A few of the accomplished projects are Record Park in Cluj-Napoca and Paltim in Timișoara. With greater power comes greater responsibility. Speedwell envisions being the agent of change in the urban transformation story of CityZen as well. The company’s aim with every project is to bring harmony and raise the quality of life in cities. Sustainable, well-crafted, and durable developments can achieve this.

What are the concrete plans for the area?

Situated in a well-connected area, repurposing the plot will lead to a rebirth of the neighbourhood and create a community that will grow organically here. One of the priorities when creating the concept has been to build public parks, green spaces, and children’s playgrounds. This stage was followed by the optimal space partitioning for new homes, retail, and office spaces. All these subdivisions can co-exist and flourish in the old industrial location, while Bucharest’s citizens will achieve a higher level of life satisfaction and well-being by living in spaces designed with care.

“CityZen will preserve its post-industrial vibe as transformation without heritage is superficial. We acknowledge the particularly complex and delicate positioning Griro occupied in the landscape. Yet, citizens do not hear its story. This is our mission, to tell the story of the place and create, all together, a new story suitable for contemporary living. We value a city’s cultural elements, and we do not take things for granted. Only with a strong social responsibility strategy in mind, we can let the diverse urban and cultural contexts coexist and progress.”  – stated Jan Demeyere, Architect and Partner at Speedwell.

Located in Calea Grivitei, District 1, Bucharest, the CityZen project will occupy a plot of 9-hectare land, part of the former Griro factory. Its mixed-use profile will include residential, office, and commercial functions. Designed with the community in mind and heart, the project includes an entire spectrum of facilities. The pedestrian lanes for walking, running, skating, riding bikes, and playing will add value to the district.

“CityZen is life in the city as it should be. A complex project for residential spaces, offices, services, education, and relaxing areas. A community integrated into the larger city life of Bucharest, not a gated and exclusive community. Accessible and connected, woven into the fabric of the larger city – that is our vision”. Didier Balcaen

“We strive for a wiser understanding of the city and its evolution. When designing CityZen, we realized that we could create a higher living standard, one that everyone deserves. That is why all our projects encompass the concept of TOD – Transit-oriented development. This means creating functions that residents can access with ease anytime, within proximity of their homes. On this idea, and starting from the community’s inner layer, we have added office and retail spaces. Modern-looking buildings, merchant alleys, various food boutiques, and a food market on the ground floor. Diversity of use and a diverse community are part of our aim for CityZen”. Jan Demeyere.

Preserving the local and national cultural heritage

A significant part of the current industrial buildings and infrastructure are in the master plan. This will add both aesthetic and cultural value to the new development. For example, open and semi-open public spaces will have at their base the original walls and metallic roof structure. Through planned landscaping, the spaces will come to life, creating a lively atmosphere all around them.

The proposed project values the existing potential of the area. Speedwell is working on the masterplan with Studio Paola Vigano, one of the best names for the undertaking. Her portfolio includes relevant experience in urbanism and postindustrial rejuvenation. ADNBA, a prestigious and awarded Romanian architecture office, oversees the design phase for CityZen.

“We have collaborated with the best in both local and international markets to create long-lasting value. Our promise is the commitment to quality and transparency of processes to build trust for everyone involved.” – added Jan Demeyere.

Sustainability is an inherent part of Speedwell’s growth strategy. As a result, the concept for CityZen is going to be certified as the first BREEAM communities project in Romania.

What is the current status of the CityZen project?

The CityZen project is now on hold due to the present PUZ status and its obstruction.

The project has been successful so far and very well received by the Urbanism Commission in Bucharest. Now, the project awaits approval for the work to begin. This is part of a bureaucratic process. And some of the delays are due to the filtering of all submissions, to release only the legitimate and sustainable schemes.

CityZen is a renewal project that is bound to become a vivid area dedicated to Bucharest’s citizens. The more time authorities take to release the project, the fewer opportunities we can create. Students, professionals, and families cannot enjoy a prosperous life when such areas are subject to becoming more crowded.

Speedwell has collaborated with authorities, and has been following strict criteria, as it does with all its projects. A ban from building is not a sustainable option for an ever-growing population in underdeveloped areas. Speedwell mentioned it will continue to request the resolution of the current issues for the project to be granted approval.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 09/03/2023 | 17:26

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