Company profile


«We come to stay»

Published: 13. March 2023

Areale Und Antizipationen1 Areale Und Antizipationen1 Areale Und Antizipationen1 Areale Und Antizipationen1

When HIAG develops a site, visions meet the needs of the local population. One of the most challenging site developments is the Wydeneck site in Dornach, just outside Basel. Where metal is still processed today, HIAG wants to create a diverse new neighborhood. The project is considered a beacon for the region.

In earlier fairy tales, old poor men transformed into young princes. It is similar when an area is transformed. Gradually, the industrial gray disappears and a diverse, vibrant living space emerges. At the moment, we can only guess what the Wydeneck site in Dornach will look like in about 20 years. The area on the Birs River is still dominated by industry, but the transformation process has already begun and businesses, studios and a cultural venue have taken up residence. Children romp around on the newly created playground. "The area has the potential to combine everything: Living, working and leisure. Our vision is a neighborhood of short distances," says Michele Muccioli, Head of Development and Realization at HIAG. The project could decisively enhance the community of Dornach and offers added value potential for the entire region.

Developing for the future
Site development is part of HIAG's core business. Ultimately, it is a kind of precision craft, says Muccioli: "Every project is a prototype with special challenges and a specific starting point. There is no universal recipe that can be applied." As a rule, HIAG takes over sites that are at the end of their life cycle: These are often industrial sites that no longer have a future in their previous form. The site in Dornach acquired in 2015 was home to Schwei- zerische Metallwerke AG Dornach, which had been producing metal tools since 1895. The factory was taken over a few years ago; the decision that this site would be abandoned for industrial use had already been made at that time by both the authorities and the industrial company at the time. Production is to continue here until the end of 2024, after which heavy industry will become a thing of the past. "We are considered specialists when it comes to developing industrial sites of a certain size and complexity," says Muccioli. Therefore, it is not uncommon to be contacted by companies that want to cede a site. HIAG assumes full responsibility: In most cases, it remains the owner of the land and the buildings. HIAG rents them out and in many cases also takes over the management. In this way, the company has a strong presence throughout the entire development process. Or as Michele Muccioli says, "We come to stay." When HIAG develops a site, it's not short-term profit that counts, but long-term added value. "In developments, we always look for the best long-term use. These are usually not mono-uses, but multi-uses. The healthy mix of living and working helps create vibrant and inspiring places with unique charm."

A new vision is emerging
Finding the future mix of uses is a lengthy process. HIAG develops a hypothesis for each new site, derived from the historic use, the short- to long-term site qualities and the existing conditions. This gives rise to many questions. What does it mean for the community if hundreds of new apartments or thousands of square meters of commercial space are built? How will traffic develop? What infrastructure will be needed in the future? Often, a competition is then held with external architectural firms or urban planners who develop independent concepts for the site. With the evaluation and sounding out of the winning project, a vision supported by all parties is finally created in consultation with the municipal and cantonal authorities.

«We are considered specialists when it comes to developing industrial sites of a certain size and complexity.» Michele Muccioli, Head of Development and Realization

Areale Und Antizipationen4
Areale Und Antizipationen5
Areale Und Antizipationen4
Areale Und Antizipationen5

HIAG always draws inspiration from the DNA of a location. In the Wydeneck site, this is the industrial history. HIAG takes up the historical traces and tries to find a mix of new and old buildings. Various industrial buildings, such as the imposing press shop, are being preserved wherever possible. The turntable square, where the railroad's freight cars used to be steered, is to become the central public square. The tracks that run across the entire site are also to remain noticeable in the form of a pedestrian and bicycle path.

Wydeneck awakens to new life
The transformation of the Wydeneck site should be completed by 20 to 25 years from now. However, with interim uses, the area is already being gently guided in a new direction and filled with new life. Vacant buildings have been renovated and are now being rented out as studios, hobby rooms or workshops. The WydeKantine is a cultural venue that regularly hosts concerts, readings, discussions and events. There is also a playground with integrated childcare facilities. The interim use is still growing: more office, commercial or restaurant space is available for rent. "In order for the public to reappropriate a place, first and foremost, a change of mindset is needed that helps them understand and ultimately support our development intentions," says Michele Muccioli. "This requires users with a certain appeal, such as hospitality businesses. That's a key factor in making sure a place is already established when it comes to finding long-term tenants." Startups, for example, that are building something new while benefiting from favorable rental terms are interesting. "Once they're established, they stay and continue to invest. Then we can expand for them."

Wydeneck is a great opportunity not only for local businesses. The neighborhood is of great importance to the community and is considered a lighthouse project for the canton of Solothurn. With 600 to 700 new apartments and around 35,000 square meters of usable space for businesses, it offers great development potential. The aim is to achieve a colorful mix that guarantees a good mix - from owner-occupied to rental units and low-cost apartments. Diversity is also a priority when it comes to the commercial share. It is clear that rather quiet business is in demand: heavy industry has had its day. The local population is always an important contact, because HIAG does not work according to a top-down approach. In addition to the usual information events, three well-attended public events have been held in Dornach so far, at which interested parties have been able to obtain first-hand information and voice their ideas and concerns.

«The area has the potential to combine everything: Living, working and leisure. Our Vision 6 is a neighborhood of short distances.» Michele Muccioli, Head of Development and Realization

Areale Und Antizipationen3
Areale Und Antizipationen5
Areale Und Antizipationen3
Areale Und Antizipationen5

Cooperation between all players is essential
The Wydeneck site development is one of the most complex things 44-year-old Michele Muccioli has ever tackled. This is not only because of its size - around 2,000 people could live here one day and around 400 to 500 people could work here. The site is also special because it lies on the border between the municipality and the canton. On the other side of the river, the municipality of Aesch is already part of the Baselbiet region. In addition to municipalities and cantons, federal authorities are also among the contacts, since the construction of a new suburban train stop is currently being planned and an intercantonal Birs crossing is also being considered. Close coordination with the municipalities and cantons is therefore indispensable in the development process. The authorities must be on board, because an adjustment of the zoning plans is necessary when industrial areas become residential and mixed-use zones. For the municipality, such a project means that tax revenues will increase - but also that the infrastructure will have to be adapted. HIAG takes these concerns into account as early as the planning phase. For example, a new school building is planned for the Wydeneck site in order to promote long-term neighborhood development and create added value for future residents.

The goal is for the first phase of construction to be completed by about 2028/29. The date is no coincidence: this is when the SBB plans to open the new Dornach Apfelsee S-Bahn stop, which is directly adjacent to the new quarter. Users will thus benefit from attractive public transport access. In the future, Basel train station and EuroAirport can be reached in 12 and 23 minutes, respectively, without changing trains. A new feeder road to the A18 is still in the planning stage, which is essential for businesses in particular. This is because the site needs new access routes for motorized private transport and better connections to public transport.

Sustainability has many dimensions
But nature is not neglected either. The new quarter will offer special added value with its green space. The Birs is to be extensively renaturalized, and a publicly accessible floodplain landscape will then be created along its banks. "We could have used this space differently," says Michele Muccioli, "but we deliberately wanted to create a park with a high quality of stay that benefits the general public, but also offers a unique USP to the neighborhood residents and users." And he emphasizes: "Sustainability is a top priority in all our projects. This applies in all areas, both in terms of social and climatic changes as well as economic aspects. Adequate measures are required in the development of resilient sites. This is highly demanding and requires analytical and differentiated thinking, creativity and professional competence. We gladly accept these challenges and they drive us forward every day."

3 Questions for Daniel Urech, Mayor of Dornach


What is the significance of the Wydeneck project for Dornach?
The transformation of an industrial area that was formative for our village into a lively new neighbourhood is of great importance. The previously closed area was associated with a history of soil pollution from the metal industry. Now the area is opening up to life and nature. We expect the new residential and commercial space, the S-Bahn stop and the expansion of the natural space along the Birs to provide valuable impulses for the entire region.

What are the opportunities and challenges?
Only very few communities can grow in the way that this area development makes possible. This is a huge opportunity for Dornach. One challenge is to provide the necessary infrastructure. It helps us that the development should not take place within a few years, but in the longer term.

As president of the municipality, how do you experience the cooperation with HIAG?
It is good, even if we do not only have common interests, of course. I experience HIAG as a partner and appreciate the focus on sustainability. I'd like to give a big shout-out to the employees: They are committed and competent to their company and are always available for our concerns!