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Regeneration Program in Budapest - Józsefváros

Renewal of retarded urban district with the involvement of the residents

Name Magdolna Quarter Program (Budapest - Józsefváros)
Place Budapest - Józsefváros
Country Hungary
Topic Complicity and participatory in regeneration of poor areas of the city
Author(s) Agnieszka Górniak
Completion 2008
Client Municipality of Budapest
Project costs total cost of pilot phase 2005-2008 3.1 MIO Euro
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47.492343, 19.079994 Budapest-Józsefváros, Mátyás tér </googlemap>

Rationale: Why is this case study interesting?

The Magdolna Quarter Program (Budapest – Józsefváros) is the first trial in Hungary to implement renewal of multiple retarded urban district with the involvement of the residents including integrated social, cultural and technical measures. It is a significant new initiative in the history of urban planning in Budapest because it takes under consideration all three fields of urbanity – society, economy and environment and especially because it includes the intensive social involvement in the process of urban development of this area. The implementation of the spatial planning aims is difficult in the Magdolna Quarter because of extreme in the scale of the city social and economical problems there and the achievement of the urban landscape assumptions calls for complex, integrated acting in several fields in the same time.

In the frame of this program have been realized 7 sub-programs - three first of them deserve for a special attention of landscape architects and planners. The program of ‘The building renewal by involvement of the tenants’, ‘The renewal of Mátyás square’ and the 'Glove Factory - Community House' are a good practice of social inclusion in all the phases of urban development process, since the moment of planning until the realization of the particular projects. Here the fact of involvement of the local society in design of the public areas is not merely the urban landscape issue but has also the educational, economical, crime prevention and social awareness building aspects.

The most interesting in those projects is the complexity of urban planning and the way of involving the problematic and socially disable community in urban landscape development and designing of the public spaces. The Magdolna Quarter Program express the interactions between urban landscape and society and help to understand the variety of needs of target groups when designing public spaces.

Author's perspective

There are many similar towns, especially located in East Europe, that struggle with problems of stagnate development of the poorest areas. This is of particular importance in case of these deteriorating cities or city quarters, which are depended on incomes of local society and entrepreneurs, and which slowly became the social and economical ‘bankrupts’ being unable to make itself a step ahead. The Budapest case is an interesting example of regenerating of city quarter by simultaneous development of its economy, spatial structure and social involvement.

I had an occasion to observe the development of Magdolna Quarter Program and the implementation of one of the public spaces there by participating in EU - financed project 'GreenKeys- Urban Green as a Key for Sustainable Cities', in which the Matyas Square have been a sample area of new Urban Green Strategy.

The aims and contents of the Program

The most important of this program is to introduce new model of urban rehabilitation scheme in Hungary where the local society of the area is actively involved in all the elements of the program. It should be kind of catalyst for public initiatives and motivate both local authorities and society to self improvement of the quality of live in problematic districts.

The Magdolna Quarter Program based on 3 general aims:

social – to improve the standard of living by ensuring appropriate living conditions, involvement of current residents, strengthening the local community cohesion and retaining the social diversity.

economical – to improve the earning production and self-reliance of the area, development of the local labour market and reduction of unemployment.

environmental – to enlarge the public and green areas both by size and quality, creating sustainable living environment by successive renovation of old buildings and retaining of architectural values of the new ones.

Contest of the program:

Program #1 – Building renewal by involvement of the tenants.

Program #2 – Greenkeys project – Renowal of the Mátyás square.

Program #3 – Mátyás Square Community House ‘Glove Factory’.

Program #4 – Education Program.

Program #5 – Crime prevention program.

Program #6 – Employment, entrepreneus program.

Program #7 – Community development program.

Implementation of the Program

Start the Program

Budapest City Council and Local Government of Józsefváros decided about the needs of providing an integrated experimental urban regeneration program in 2004. Based on this decision the Rév8 PLC (Józsefváros Rehabilitation and Urban Development Company) cooperating with local authorities elaborated and developed the Magdolna Quarter Program, as a kind of medium-term regeneration initiative for period of 15 years. The experiment program took a place as a co-operation part between 2005 and 2008.

The Program #1 - Building renewal by involvement of the tenants - works with 100% Local Government (LG) owned rented houses. P#1 has been started with 6 houses in 2005 and then continued with 4 houses more. The tenants have been involved already in design part of the renewal program of the house. The proposed tasks and the renewal works was defined together with residential community. After that Rév8 PLC continually maintain contacts with the residents of each house and provided information about the opportunities available for the renewal of the houses. The support by their professional experience have been provided for the residents in process of making their decision. During the renovation there has been an opportunity for tenants to nominate a representative or a ‘commission’ for the negotiations with Rév8 PLC. Some smaller works have been done by the tenants against some remuneration that could be compensation in the rentals, reduction of rent unpaid or accounting for material costs.

The removal of Mátyás Square Program #2 have been a first action of the Magdolna Quarter Program in public areas. The aim of this initiative was to develop a common community place where people can gather and arise the social relationships that could increase the resident retention force of the neighborhood and enhance the living standards of the quarter. The square was at the same time a sample area (pilot project) for GreenKeys Project (Urban Green as a Key for Sustainable Cities) realized in 2005-2008 with support of EU funds. In the first phase of design the Rev8 PLC have consulted the ideas with academic researchers and professionals from EU. In year 2006 the design part took a place that have been realized with closed cooperation with local residents. Several meetings with residents have been organized during which they participated in designing and deciding process about plans and materials. The implementation phase started in autumn 2006 and some of the small works like sittings mounds – new street furniture – have been realized by teachers and pupils from local schools. For organizers of this initiative was important not only to utilize the public space but to strengthen the cohesion of the different social groups and let them feel of the new green area as their own property. (table: author based on Rev8 sources)

The Program #3 - Mátyás Square Community House ‘Glove Factory’ have been the next to be realized. The old, empty „Glove Factory” standing at the Mátyás Square have been renovated as space for alternative cultural and training programs for the people living in the neighborhood. The transformed house is opened for multi-functionality : Youth Information Office, spaces for education and artworks and now also for new Rév8 plc office. The aim of the Youth Information Office is to help in the self-standing of the young through the informative and consultative practices in order to cause them to undertake responsibility for themselves, to mediate them, aid the young to find their place in the community and finally to reduce their disadvantage stemming possibly from their age and living position. Another important activity in the house is to supply to the Erdélyi Primary School education program with digital visual and arts program. As said by György Alföldi architect, CEO / Rév8 Plc- It is the most important for the children in disadvantage that they could be able to overcome the disadvantage accumulated across generations by development of their own knowledge and development of skills. The ‘Digital Childhood’ program, in addition to aiming the school could be a true alternative for the young interesting in video, photo or media or for other young people within or outside the quarter.

The P#4 Education Program consist on many smaller programs and ideas prepared for children in different age groups. As a part of the development of Erdélyi Primary School it was united with a local Secondary School. The primary aim of this reorganisation was to reduce the separation of the primary school, currently educating nearly 100% Romany pupils, as well as provide an opportunity for the young (and adults) from the quarter to obtain a maturity grade by continuing their primary school and leaning that is a prerequisite for qualifying many skilled worker’s jobs. Already in 2006 started Swedish ‘Smart Fox Program’ to improve the reading skills for little children and ‘Digital Childhood’ program. They are acting also to connect the local kindergartens to the program. (source: Rev8 PLC)

The objective of P#5/1 - Crime prevention program is to create co-operation forum for the players able and willing to act for the public security and for crime prevention and enhancement of success of the police, local government and civil efforts and also provide the necessary information and devices for the implementation and monitoring of the results, and further, training of the specialists working in the area of public security. Public Security Working Group establish and apply a uniform crime prevention and public security view in the quarter. It is create the public security strategy of the quarter including an action plan as well as will implement new forms of residents’ information and maintaining contacts harmonized with the local conditions and demand. (source: Rev8 PLC)

The P #6 - Employment, entrepreneurs program was prepared to involved the local small companies and qualified entrepreneurs in the building renewals and operations in the district and at the same time to help the residents to find out the small entrepreneur capable of performing the task. The Romany entrepreneurship program is also a local initiative based on an integrated cooperation of participants with different profile that intends to promote the employment market integration and social confidence for the Romany entrepreneurs.(source: Rev8 PLC)

The last but not the least to implement is the P #7 - Community development program. The reconnecting of the fallen apart social fabric, rebuilding the lost confidence between the people and elimination of the anxiety is one of the most important part of regeneration of the Quarter. There is planed to create the Magdolna Quarter Neighbourhood Council that will organize the community and to stimulate the activity of the people. The task of this civil organization will be to develop the community, to find and involve the active residents into the rehabilitation task and form the local initiatives.(source Rev8 PLC)

Landscape and/or urban context

District VIII of Budapest (known as Józsefváros; Joseph’s Town) is situated in Pest side of city centre, that is one of the most diversified residential areas of Budapest. The district of Józsefváros is divided into 11 spatial units - quarters, each of them has an independent image and conditions. Magdolna Quarter is also a residential area with closed rows of buildings mostly built at the turn of the 20th century, which had seen better times before and which became a critical area after World War II due to the gradual deterioration of the building and housing stock and the social devaluation of the area (Egedy, 2008). The quarter is located in the heart of the district. the territory is 340.000 square meters large and had 12.000 inhabitants.

The Magdolna Quarter Program have been elaborated for the area of quarter focusing on its the poorest part - surrounding of Mátyás Square. Besides the social and economical improvements the Magdolna Quarter Program aims at enlargement of public and green areas both by size and quality, creating sustainable living environment by continuous renewal of buildings in small steps, by retaining the architectural values and building new houses. (maps Rev8)

Cultural/social/political context

In the Magdolna Quarter the families in disadvantageous position are living in a concentrated pattern with over-representation of Romany families. The unemployment rate is equally the highest there all over Budapest and the proportion of economically active population is the lowest. The blocking in terms of education is also the highest: proportion of people without primary school qualification is high and the number of those having university grade is low. As regard to the economic potential and employment position of the quarter this is one of the weakest areas in the city. The number of criminal acts is high in spite of the improving public security. Another serious problem is a use of and trading with drugs as well as the prostitution having considerable historical heritage even if it has practically ceased to exist in public areas. The local community provides a more acceptant medium for the people disabled due to their physical or mental state or disqualified due to their ethic relations as well as for the Hungarian and non-Hungarian immigrants. The ratio of small area flats without any comfort is high in the outdated composition and extraordinarily bad state flat stock. Due to the permanent worsening of physical state and downward moving social spiral the quarter of the city being of the quarter of poor people is steadily detaching from the rest of the district. There is still a thin middle class group in the quarter that did not want or was unable to move from this part of the city and could be more easily mobilized than the people of the poorest families. The key task of this program is to retain and to strengthen this thin group as possible. The prestige of Jozefvaros district reduced in the last decades, the shrinking of the population (Fig. Population of Jozsefvaros based on source of Hungarian Central Statistical Office) was persistent and the process of segregation occurred. The tables below review the main demographic features of Magdolna Quarter as well as the problems that affect the situation of green spaces, using the the results of questionnaire surveys and scientific analyzes of Erdősi (2007) and Egedy (2008), (pictures Rev8, tables - author based on Rev8 sources)


Some integrated urban development programs have been set up by the local government of Józsefváros after 2000, because negative urban processes (in particular criminality and prostitution) became intolerable. Since the public spaces were generally neglected, each of the integrated development program contains an emphatic public and, of course, green space development element (Alföldi and Kovács, 2008). To improve the image and quality of life there have been elaborated in 2004 the „15-year Development Strategy for the District Józsefváros”.The local government of Józsefváros and Rev8 PLC elaborated also the Magdolna Quarter Programme containing social rehabilitation of surroundings of Mátyás square. The most important of this program is to introduce new model of urban rehabilitation scheme in Hungary where the local society of the area is actively involved in all the elements of the program. It should be kind of catalyst for public initiatives and motivate both local authorities and society to self improvement of the quality of live in problematic districts. The development of the program is attentively observed by researchers, authority, media and residents and after finishing the first phase of its realization seems to be successful and worthy to continue (Rev8)

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

The most important spacial project of this program was the renewal of Matyas Square located in the heart of Magdolna District. The design has been prepared by professional landscape architects based on suggestions and requirements of local society. The society decided also about the material and way of usage of the space. They decided for more simple and safe form considering the risk of vandalism and theft (for example they chose asphalt for walking ways at the square because of low possibility of damages).

Core Questions Working Group Public Space and Civic Identity

Who was involved in the participation process?

The Magdolna Quarter Program is a part of larger Regeneration Program in Budapest – Józsefváros. The key words of this program is cooperation and participation, so it contains many players in each phase of its realization. In the frame of this program have been already renovated Mátyás square that involved many diversified participants.

Players in different parts of project implementation:

1. Initiation of the program: - Municipality of Budapest - Local Government of Józsefváros

2. The preparatory of the project (planning, analyzing, designing) - Geographical Research Institute of Hungarian Academy of Science GRI HAS - Rév8 - Urban Renewal and Development of Józsefváros PLC - Budapest Corvinus University - Local society: inhabitants of the quarter – mostly of Local Government owned rental houses (42% of total house ownerships of the district), the Erdélyi Elementary and Secondary School ( teachers and the pupils), local NGO’s, students of the Budapest Corvinus University

3. Financial participation: City of Budapest, Local Government of Józsefváros, EU institutes in a frame of INTERREG III B program, project GreenKeys- Urban Green as a Key for Sustainable Cities.

4. Maintenance of realized project: Local Government with participation of local society.

How was the participation process implemented (methods applied)?

There have been applied several methods of public participation in different part of the regeneration program. The complicity of local society in all aspects and all phases of program implementation have been taken as priority for whole the program. In the case study of Magdolna Quarter Program is analyzed mainly the its part of participative renewal of building and public spaces in the first phase of programs run. Below it is describe the schedule of renewal of Mátyás Square – the biggest open public in Magdolna Quarter. For all the building and open space removal have been used similar method of public involvement. The preparation and the implementation phases of the pilot project have been achieved from 2005 until March 2008, including the public discussions on demands and expectations of local residents. However the involvement of residents have been more successful in implementation that in preparatory part. It took long time to build the awareness of real needs and possibilities of improvement and catalyst initiatives.

Planning and design phase:

The activities between organizers and local society began in October 2005. It have been launched by distributing colorful leaflets and organizing the first “kick-off” meeting for the residents. Two further meetings with the public were held a few months later in February and March 2006. All of them had been announced in the local newspaper. Besides these a survey was carried out in the period of the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006. The results of the survey have been analyzed by one of the Institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. One of the most important information from both the public consultations and the survey was that 80% of the affected public would happily participate in the implementation as well as in the maintenance phase. In March 2006 have been invited to the program the Corvinus University to cooperate in with District in the planning and implementation of the project. Based on the comments and demands of the local inhabitants, three different concepts were developed that were presented at the next meeting of professionals and the public participants later in March. Planning was carried out in evidence–students came around, carried out research on the role and history of Mátyás square, made interviews with local inhabitants. At the end, based on the comments received in March, one final plan was developed and presented to the public in May. The presentation was organized in the framework of an open-air gathering, demo and communication materials were widely applied. The inhabitants could also vote for the materials that would be built in the square.


The implementation activity was divided into two parts. The first stage started in December 2006 with designing so-called sitting-hills for the square as an alternative to benches. Pupils of one of the schools of Magdolna Quarter, local NGO’s and students of the Corvinus University were participated in this design and later in realizing in spring 2007. By the mid of April 2007, the new structures (pathways, main green spot, etc.) were also established. The second phase was the establishing a new playground and fences, new public lighting and security service. New plants were placed on the square by residents, politicians and NGO’s during two days of voluntary work in autumn 2007.

Maintenance. The Rév8 and GRI HAS - organizations responsible for implementation of the project -would like to extend the public participation methods to the maintenance activities as well. Several local meetings have been already organized in connection with the role of potential stakeholders in the maintenance period. It is in progress to delegate the different tasks for the local institutes and communities.

In how far does/did the project respond to people's needs?

The local society have been involved in all the phases of implementation of the project, so the requests from locals have been all the time considered as the priority. Firstly, the survey have been carried out and detail analyzed. From the survey came the message that the majority of responders wish to participate in both implementation and maintenance part of the project. So based on this request they have been invited to designing workshops with local professionals. The final version of the design have been consulted during a few public open meetings and finally the inhabitants have been also voting on building materials that were going to be used in the square. In the realization phase of the project the residents in different age have been participating and voluntary planting the plants or installing the equipments with professionals. Of course not everybody from locals have been satisfied with created solutions but the conclusions have been made based on democratic voting and public consultations. However, happned there some acts of vandalism regardless of the accordance to local public requirements.

Analysis of program/function

Up to the kind of sub-programs - please see the implementation part above.

Analysis of design/planning process

The development of the Magdolna Quarter Program have been done by Rev8 PLC with cooperation with external specialist from different professional fields and institutes according to the needs of sub-program (please, see implementation of the programs above). The design of public space have been done based on social consultation and with participation of residents of the quarter. (pic. Public consultations, source: Rev8 PLC archive)

17.jpg 18.jpg 30.jpg 34.jpg 331.jpg

Analysis of use/users

The Magdolna Quarter Program based on idea of active participation and involvement of local community in all the phases of designing and implementation of the project. The residents of the area are there the target group and final beneficiary of their participation in the program. The project consider very diversified users and each of the programs have different target groups of users.(table: Different users of sub-Programs of Magdolna Quarter Program, based on folder "Regeneration Program in Budapest - Jozsefvaros", Rev8 PLC, illust. author)


In this Program the target users have been also the participants of the program at its preparatory and implementation phase. The picture bellow shows the sitting mounds made together with teachers and pupils from local schools and located in public place - Matyas Square (pic. Sitting mounds, Tamas Dömötör, source: Rev8 PLC archive) 49.jpg

Future development directions

The Program had an model character that means it is going to be continued in case of success of pilot phase 2005-2008. No doubts that the Program brought positive results and it is now continuously developed in next part of Program - Magdolna Quarter Program II. The Program will be accomplished as a national prefered urban regeneration program between 2008-2010. The fallowing parts will be realized in a frame of the Program: Quality Education Program, Community Development Program, Social and Crime Prevention Program, Building reconstruction with the participation of resident communities, Public Space Renewal Program and Economic Program. The total budget of this Program is 8.5 mio Euro with support from EU founds.

Peer reviews or critique

GreenKeys Project Team (2008) GreenKeys@Your City - A Guide for Urban Green Quality, Korotan d.o.o, Lubljana

Egedy, T. (2008) The role of monitoring and the Greenkeys Monitoring System, in: Urban Green Spaces - A Key for Sustainable Cities: Conference Reader. International Conference,

Egedy, T. (2008) The expected impact of the rehabilitation of Mátyás square on the local community and the quality of life, in: Alföldi, Gy., Kovács, Z. (eds.) Városi Zöld Könyv – Urban Green Book, pp. 122–146. Budapest, published by ÉTK, MTA FKI, Rév8 Zrt.

Points of success and limitations

The Program seems to be a great organizational and social success. There have been many different local and foreign institutes involved in the project. The works have been very good planed and professionally implemented. Also the additional sources of financing have been found like EU found or engagement of local residents and companies (this type of multi-source financing is not common in Hungary). The most difficulties and limitations came from the fact of working with 'difficult society'. The organizers have to firstly find a way of communication and cooperation with inhabitants of city slumps and built kind of trust to the local authorities and public organizations. Most of the local inhabitants had a positive approach to the initiative but also act of vandalism took a place and resistance for cooperation and changes of 'wild' social character of the place the locals are used to.

What can be generalized from this case study?

The more diversified participants in process of creating the public spaces the more people is satisfied from the final effect.

The renovation of inhibited urban area should be done with involvement of local society.

The reactivation of poorest city area have to be done simultaneously with development of local community and with its acceptance.

The involvement of society in the process of improving public spaces build the feeling of responsibility for this space.

Which research questions does it generate?

The Program is very diversified and respond to many social, psycho-social, economical and environmental question of living in the city. The most important researches field of this program is reactivation of shrinking and disadvantage part of the city by direct contact and involvement of local residents. Keywords/issues: social participation, reactivation of slums, improving the living conditions of poorest urban areas, working in the roots, development of community life and social awareness, public spaces, urban green in poorest part of city, etc.

Image Gallery

Source of pictures: Rev8 PLC archive


All the information and illustrations used in this case study description come from Rev8 PLC, from available public domain sources or are the authors conclusions and summaries.

I would like to thank this way the Rev8 PLC from Budapest, Hungary, for their help, the materials and the pictures.

More information about the program can be found on:

Budapest Mid-Term Urban Development Program

Magdolna Regeneration Model Program

Jozsefvaros Mid-Term Urban Development Program

Digital Childhood Program

Interreg IIIB CADSES GreenKeys

Budapest Corvinus Univercity

Geographical Research Institute of the Hungarian Science Academy

8.District Police Department

Alföldi, Gy., Kovács, Z. (2008) The future of our cities – joint responsibility and joint green action, in: Alföldi, Gy., Kovács, Z. (eds.) Városi Zöld Könyv – Urban Green Book, pp. 100–103. Budapest, published by ÉTK, MTA FKI, Rév8 Zrt.

Bajomi, I. (undated) Education of underprivileged children in a deteriorated neighborhood of Budapest. Available at: (Date accessed, 02. 09. 2008).

Beluszky, P. (2007) A Kárpát-medence régiói 6. Közép-Magyarország (Regions of Carpathian Basin 6. Middle-Hungary). Pécs-Budapest, Dialóg Campus.

Berényi, E., Kondor, A. Cs., Szabó, B. (2008) The social aspects of green areas in Budapest with special regard to migration questionnaire research in six sample areas, in: Alföldi, Gy., Kovács, Z. (eds.) Városi Zöld Könyv – Urban Green Book, pp. 104–121. Budapest, published by ÉTK, MTA FKI, Rév8 Zrt.

Boros, T-né (1993) Városi zöldterületek társadalmi haszna és költsége (The social benefit of urban green spaces). Budapest, Országos Műszaki Információs Központ és Könyvtár.

Dövényi, Z., Kovács, Z. (1999) A szuburbanizáció térbeni-társadalmi jellemzői Budapest környékén (Spatial-social features of suburbanisation around Budapest). Földrajzi Értesítő (Geographical Bulletin), 48(1–2), pp. 33–57.

Rev8 PLC, art. Challenges and Experiences of a Participative Green Space Development in Budapest-Józsefváros


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