THERE WILL BE A CONCERT HALL IN BRNO!
THERE WILL BE A GREAT CITY RING ROAD!
THERE WILL BE A NEW TRAIN STATION!
THERE WILL BE A NEW EMBANKMENT ALONG THE RIVER!
You’ve probably seen the big posters screaming these big promises around town recently, featuring big slogans in bright red and white letters.
The posters are in Czech, but even if you’ve just stumbled in a daze out of your first Czech lesson, you’ll recognize the last word of each slogan: “BUDE!” – the future tense claim that something will be.
These big promises are part of a big promotional campaign, “Co bude, Brno?” The campaign is meant to draw our attention to all the big things the city plans to do in the coming years to improve life in our big Moravian village.
The “Co bude, Brno?” website lists dozens of “important projects,” some finished, some underway, some yet to materialize. Many of these projects fit into the larger vision of the Brno2050 Strategy, which I wrote about in a previous post.
Unfortunately, there’s no English version of the website. Maybe that’s because if you translate “Co bude, Brno?” directly into English – “What will be, Brno?” – it sounds a bit awkward. When I say it out loud, my mind immediately breaks into “Que sera, sera… Whatever will be, will be…” (which is appropriate since that song itself is in awkward fake Spanish).
But when it comes to the slogans on the posters around town, written not as questions but as bold exclamations – THERE WILL BE A CULTURAL CENTER IN THE OLD PRISON! – I’m a fan. The positive messaging makes it sound like the city is committing enthusiastically to these projects.
And boy oh boy, as a teacher of academic writing, I LOVE me some future tense! After reading thousands of papers in which the author seems desperate to avoid committing to actually doing anything (“In this paper, I aim to possibly begin considering potential methods of aiming toward shedding light on how we might aim to be more human”), it’s very refreshing to read about something that WILL happen. Exclamation mark!
The city’s website is certainly trying hard to push the argument that these things will be. It shows several of the projects as “Dokončeno” – Completed – and if you hover over them with your mouse you’ll see a green checkmark. The finished projects include the reconstruction of Mendlovo náměstí and the new tram line to Campus.
The yet-to-be projects range from massive planned neighborhoods, to environmental “first aid,” to infrastructure improvements. Each project gets equal space on the website, with its own dedicated page showing pretty photos, impressive statistics, and a timeline celebrating milestones in the project’s completion.
The equal promotion of every project is charming, but creates some unintentional humor in the juxtaposition; for example, a sleek CG image of the proposed Janáčkovo Cultural Center appears directly underneath a less glamorous photo of new sewer pipes.
Even if some of the projects are not as sexy as others, there is plenty to look forward to in the list of things that will be.
Those concerned about the lack of flats in Brno will be happy to see that a lot of the projects include plans for more housing – like this plan to build 353 apartments on Kamenný vrch by 2025.
And even though I have a perverse affection for the dingy, outdated aesthetics of the pedestrian tunnel underneath the main station, known affectionately (though perhaps inaccurately!) as the “Myší díra” or “Mouse Hole,” I have to accept that for many Brno residents, the fact that it still looks pretty much like it did 30 years ago is an embarrassment. So if THERE WILL BE A MODERN MOUSE HOLE! then so be it. I just hope the real people walking through it in the future don’t end up quite as deep in the uncanny valley as they appear in the posters (currently hanging like unsettling mirrors in the underpass):
A large part of me is genuinely won over by the city’s positive and forward-looking vision.
In general, I’m a fan of big, bold city planning projects. That may come from having grown up in Atlanta, a metropolis of over 6 million people that, after decades of gridlocked traffic, has never been able to get its act together and build a comprehensive public transit system.
Even though I personally don’t drive, don’t like the eyesore of massive highways, and certainly don’t love the idea of some Brno neighborhoods being bulldozed to build the new Velký městský okruh – I can see why our growing city needs a coherent traffic system that includes a modern bypass.
Anyone living in a large city, and sharing space with others, needs to make sacrifices for the good of the group. Some of the “Co bude, Brno?” projects – like the ring road, and the endlessly controversial new train station – may hugely inconvenience some people. But if there’s been a fair, transparent, and balanced process for the design and implementation of a project, at some point a decision needs to be made by the city leaders. And at that point, it’s great if we can all say it will be, and help make it happen.
Of course, we shouldn’t just assume that our leaders are following a fair and balanced process in realizing these projects – we need to stay alert and make sure they are.
That’s where the part of me that likes the city’s THERE WILL BE! declarations meets the more skeptical part of me that wants to ask: but WILL THERE BE?
Okay, so there will be a new concert hall – but when will there be?
The lot on which it’s meant to be built has sat barren for several years, fenced in with photos of Milan Kundera looking grumpy. This year, finally, maybe, the city is aiming to possibly begin considering bids from construction companies. But this development has come only after petitions and protests from groups worried about the delays and about rumors that the city would instead prioritize the Arena Brno project.
Okay, there will be new housing – but will it be affordable?
Will it be accessible to the people who have lived and worked for a long time in the neighborhoods where it will be built? Again, my hometown of Atlanta is one of many cautionary tales; the people who are supposed to benefit from “urban development” projects often end up getting pushed out by them.
Okay, there will be new boulevards and highways – but will there be new places for people to walk across them?
I find it truly insane that, in all the planning for the lovely reconstruction of Moravské náměstí, there was no plan to put in a pedestrian crossing between the new park and the south side of the square leading toward the city center. Every time I’m there, I watch dozens of people who a moment ago were in romantic-stroll-in-the-park mode suddenly making desperate calculations as to whether they can outrun the next tram or car without losing their ice cream cone. And even where there are marked crossings, they are often on ridiculously short timers (pedestrians have a whopping 8 seconds of green light to cross the 4-lane inner ring road between the Česká tram stop area and Veveří street).
I bring up these questions and concerns not in a spirit of cynicism or defeatism. I don’t think we should subscribe to the scarcity mindset that if we do one thing, it must be at the expense of something else. I think all the big projects listed on the “Co bude, Brno?” website can and should be done, along with many smaller, less flashy improvements to the city.
But as much as I admire the confident THERE WILL BE! messaging of the “Co bude, Brno?” campaign, we shouldn’t sit back and wait for all these things to simply be willed into existence. If these things will be done, we should help make sure they will be done right.
Brno Expat Centre’s team suggests these ways to keep yourself posted about the happenings in Brno, or help steer the city’s development:
- follow local news. Brno News CTV or Brno Daily are local sources in English.
- cast your vote or suggest a project through Brno’s participatory budget. Read more about this initiative in Joe’s article
- participate in Brno’s municipality elections (EU citizens with residence card only, though). The next come in 2026. Read more in our article.
- Get in touch with your local City District Town Hall about the things that bother you in the Brno district you live in. They genuinely try to reply to well-mannered inquiries.
- These options might not seem enough. Have you witnessed a better way internationals could influence local politics in your country of origin? Feel free to contact Brno Expat Centre with your experience.
About the author: Joe Lennon first came to Brno in 2006, and every now and then he thinks up a new story to explain his continued presence here. He is an assistant professor at the Masaryk University Language Centre, where he teaches English and Writing. You can read more of his writing about Brno on the Brno Daily website. You can also watch this space for more of his blog posts about what’s happening with (and for) expats in Brno.