Vibrant Østerbro square threatened with closure

City Council wants to replace a popular cafés and small businesses on the Bopa Plads square with needed daycare facilities, but has been forced to rethink after strong local opposition

Several thriving business in Østerbro faced the threat of being shuttered by the City Council in order to make way for new childcare facilities, but were given a last minute reprieve by city politicians.

One of them, Café Pixie, spills out onto the Bopa Plads square and is popular with local residents for injecting some atmosphere into the otherwise-dreary Østerbro backstreets.

The council owns several of the properties on the square, however, and last Thursday the city’s property company, Københavns Ejendomme, decided to terminate the contracts of Cafe Pixie and a number of smaller businesses from 1 November 2014.

Lacking daycare facilities
The council needs the properties in order to address a shortage of daycare facilities in the district, as the city is obliged to provide all Copenhageners with daycare for their children within four kilometres of their home.

“Council property should be used for council purposes,” Københavns Ejendomme spokesperson Malene Schultz-Jørgensen told online news source Din By.

“If the council doesn’t need the property it can temporarily rent it out for private purposes, but when the council needs the property, we have to terminate the contract with the private tenant,” she said.

READ MORE: City meets daycare target

Successful Facebook campaign
The decision sparked outrage among local residents and inspired one – Ole Kassow, a parent who lives around the corner from the square – to start the Facebook page Bevar Bopa Plads (Save Bopa Plads). The page racked up an impressive 14,000 likes in only two days.

Kassow told The Copenhagen Post that the square is a unique space that adds value to the neighbourhood as a whole.

“Some people might say this case represents a conflict of interests between hipsters and parents, but they are actually standing shoulder to shoulder,” Kassow said. “The square is a meeting place for the whole community, where kids can play and adults can meet and this is actually what most of the parents want.”

Political support
The campaign paid off and three of the city’s six deputy mayors have demanded a halt to the redevelopment, including the deputy mayor for traffic and the environment, Ayfer Baykal (SF), and the deputy mayor for children and youth, Jesper Christensen (S).

This morning, the deputy mayor for culture and leisure, Pia Allerslev (V), said she has asked Københavns Ejendomme to retract the contract terminations.

“There is a great need for daycare facilities in Copenhagen, but it should not mean that we sacrifice our fantastic urban space,” she wrote.

Future remains uncertain
Allerslev added that the square’s future rests upon actual political action, which Kassow pointed out will ride on the outcome of the local elections on November 19.

“It’s easy for Allerslev to come out and say she will retract the terminations, but we don’t know what will happen after the election,” Kassow said. “But it’s still a success that we gathered more than 14,000 people in two days to demand a greater say about the square and the area where they live.”