• Germany's news in English
 

Unpopular waterfront development plans still afloat in Berlin

The Local · 14 Sep 2010, 17:06

Published: 14 Sep 2010 17:06 GMT+02:00

At the end of Berlin’s Cuvry Strasse, the work of graffiti artist Blu looms large over an empty grassy lot as people mill about inspecting the crumbling wall and its urban art. Nearby, the undeveloped area offers waterfront seats from a stone ledge.

But the other side of the Spree River is a harbinger of things to come, with the chic Universal Music building nestled among a growing collection of other corporate headquarters and hotels.

A Berliner named Sebastian sits on the ledge with his female friend as the sun sets over the river. After living in the German capital for the past 10 years, he has come to accept the city’s constant evolution. “You have to take what it gives you,” he says.

Developers hope that will be the successful completion of the Mediaspree project, an ambitious undertaking to commercialize both sides of the city’s desirable riverfront real estate. But the plans have run into fierce opposition from residents afraid the few remaining undeveloped spots in the centre giving Berlin its unique flavour will be lost in the process.

“It’s a scandal to ignore a public vote,” says Sebastian, referring to the non-binding 2008 referendum that showed the majority of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district residents against the Mediaspree development. “They city shouldn’t have one in the first place if they don’t like the result,” he says.

A multi-tiered property development plan intending to build lofts, hotels and office space along the river, the Mediaspree also happens to threaten some of Berlin’s best-known subculture venues along the river. This has caused friction between backers of the city’s mighty club culture and development boosters hoping to lure telecommunication and media companies to the German capital with the transformation.

The Mediaspree zone runs 3.7 kilometres between Berlin’s Jannowitz Bridge to the west and Elsen Bridge in the east. Since its inception in the 1990s, the city has marketed it as the preferred location for the expansion of a creative cluster of industries.

Three state-owned enterprises, Berliner Hafen- und Lagerhausgesellschaft (Behala), the city’s waste management company BSR and Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin have been designated sections of the Spree waterfront to sell.

The development has made considerable headway in recent years, with the O2 World arena, Universal Music, MTV Networks Germany, as well as a wealth of hotels and office lofts being built. But progress has still not been as rapid as the city government originally expected.

The biggest setback has been the refusal by Berlin’s Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district to allow the construction of a 90-metre high skyscraper at the Elsen Bridge. The district demanded a height limit of 24-metre, meaning investors initially willing to pay €20 million for the land are now only offering €5 million.

“A victory for (Mediaspree opponents) and a disadvantage for us,” says Michael Reimann, a development manager for Behala.

The district has also been adamant about preserving green areas and large open spaces within the development, which decreases rental incomes for potential property investors.

Franz Schulz, mayor of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, feels that one of the positive effects of the Mediaspree development has been to raise awareness of the issue of public accessibility to the riverbank.

“Public discussions and the successful citizens' initiative on the further development of the Spree area were quite effective,” he says, explaining negotiations have indeed resulted in smaller building densities and larger public open spaces on the banks of the Spree.

But the mayor’s words will offer little solace to members of Mediaspree Versenken! (Sink Mediaspree!), a public force that includes leftists, club-goers and other opponents of gentrification.

“This should be a symbol for the whole city and beyond the borders of Berlin,” says group leader Carsten Joost. “It should be a strong sign against this capitalism and commercialisation.”

Spree Urban, an offshoot of the BSR, is in negotiations to commercialize the property called the Timber Market, exactly where Berlin’s legendary riverside club venue Bar25 is located. “Bar25 has to leave the property this year,” says BSR spokesman, Thomas Klöckner. “That’s not talk, that’s what we agreed on, from both sides.”

More than just a club, Bar25 included a cinema, spa and garden, skate park, circus, restaurant, hostel and record label. But on September 10, the venue’s doors closed permanently.

The club’s owners are now looking to move to a new location, but complain about lacking support from city officials usually keen to promote Berlin’s legendary nightlife.

“Berlin’s political representatives seemed unconcerned with sustaining the 200 seasonal jobs that Bar25 represents,” they said recently in a statement. “When it came time to provide concrete assistance, their promises, from the mayor on down, proved empty.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:02 September 15, 2010 by catjones
The "cool" people simply don't add to the tax base and corporate growth does. The buildings are not just empty shells; they house jobs, the same jobs the "cool" people cry about not having. And the buildings are built by people with hard-earned skills. If you're an educated, experienced and skilled worker, you're probably in favor of the project.
09:40 September 15, 2010 by majura
As someone that works in the 'media' industry, I agree and disagree. The more media based businesses that set up in Berlin, the more likely projects will be produced in Berlin and hence provide work for myself, my wife (also in the same industry) and a lot of our friends. I've worked with the "soulless" people from the "soulless" company that is Universal multiple times. I think you're (Wobinidan) ignorantly stereo-typing like a lot of anti-MediaSpree people do.

I personally love Blu's work and would not want to see it covered up by another venture into boring architecture (or there lack of, that's another issue though. I love new buildings, but they should be interesting and not just economical). I've only ever been 'on location' shooting in that empty lot, but I can see the appeal of wanting to keep it open/available to the public.

I think the biggest issue is that people against MediaSpree tend to assume that we're all 'rich media executives' types. Where in fact, much like real life, there can only be a few 'executives'. The rest of us, whilst not forced to live in public housing, also don't earn triple annual figures, drive BMW 7 series or have a holiday home on Mallorca (not that anyone in their right mind, would).

Also there's no real need for all media companies to generally be centred around the Spree. So much of our work is transferred online or via courier. We communicate though email and phones. I also think that simply by name 'MediaSpree' people assume that it's all occupied by the media industry- which it's not. Just look at the neither beautiful or ugly, but just rather average and boring Treptower Towers.

I also fail to understand how people can demonise the media industry when they themselves are also the consumers of what we produce! I'm not in this industry to make huge profits. I just love film & especially film-sound. Sure I work on other projects to put money in the bank, but it's not about getting rich- I love what I do for a living. If I happen to earn more money then that's great, but I'd still be doing this if I was earning €500 per month.

I do however agree that the city of Berlin has got it wrong. It doesn't help that the city has no capital nor that the city's planners aren't the brightest bunch. Simply trying to say "here, we're going to build new tall shiny buildings and demolish the old ones" doesn't work. What would work is balance. Balance between what developers/industry/residents want and balance between new developments and maintaining/preserving old ones. It shouldn't be about "idiots" that work within media or "soulless" companies. Take a step back, understand that by supporting the media industry in Berlin, you're supporting people that work hard for their income and an alternate industry for the city (not just Tourism). At the same time, fight for balance.
10:01 September 15, 2010 by mexican.wav
Given the recent pruposed building developments in city west and alex, I can't see this enchancing the character of the area.

I wouldnt see the problem in keeping the developments to the other side of the river where the O2 World et all are, there isnt really much going on there and it could make for a nice little skyline for the kreuzbergers, Trying to develop the side of curvystrasse seems like yr asking for trouble though.

The companies will win out though and instead we will be left with a bunch of acrid 90s style architecture "desirable" property covered in paint from all the protesters. Shame.
16:57 September 18, 2010 by iline
I think that anyone like myself or Majura who is actively working in the media has a bit of perspective that seems to be lacking on the both sides of this debate. Berlin with its 20% unemployment needs to build workplaces. Berlin needs to develop and become a capital city rather than an adolescent playground for drug users, which 20 years past Mauerfall, it still is.

I love it for this reason, and I am not proposing that we delete the liberal culture that sets Berlin apart, but I didn't find work here for a year despite years of experience in London's media industry. For that reason I agree that a balanced approach is needed to develop this scheme. I do not understand why this incentive to build business spaces has to be centred on the Spree and I do not understand why the idea is to build high buildings that fail to respect the culture of their location.

We need a scheme that takes into consideration the cultural impact of the devlopment while still offering incentives for property investors. Perhaps the development budget could include re-situating Bar 25 under the Blu painting by Oberbaumbrucke so the ravers and the investors get a respite from this bullshit spouting forth from both sides of the Spree.
05:30 September 20, 2010 by Talonx
@ Iline

Berlin hasn't had 20% unemployment in over 4 years. It's been decreasing drastically as the result of Berlin finds itself an identity as a service industry-oriented city. ( http://berlin.wantedineurope.com/news/news.php?id_n=7159 )

Proof of the strength of Germany's economy, when I first arrived in 2007 it was around 17 % in Berlin, but even through the hard times it's decreased while rates rise elsewhere in the developed world.

Mediaspree is just one in a series of dumb ideas to try and make Berlin something that it's not, another example can be seen at Potsdamer Plz. That's were this administration is taking the entire city. Mediaspree is not only a bad idea because the residents do not want it (this is indisputable), but, additionally, because it will eviscerate the city and create another dead zone like Potsdamer Plz. that even the tourists know better than to go visit, thus killing off bits of the service industry which employs so many gainfully.
16:37 September 23, 2010 by BDannyBoi
For me, the fundamental mistake is the top-down, single-minded notion that by constructing a bunch of buildings and naming it MediaSpree, you can artificially transplant an industry into a city. Instead of spending millions to convince media giants like Universal to move to that strip of land, our tax money would be better spent as seed money to help small, innovative film/music/digital media companies get off the ground.
Today's headlines
Whiff of foul play in Cologne mayoral election
An electoral poster next to Cologne Cathedral. Photo: DPA

Whiff of foul play in Cologne mayoral election

3 hours ago

Did the Social Democratic Party (SPD) deliberately skew voting slips in Cologne's mayoral elections to hand their candidate an advantage?

Refugee crisis
Five ways you can help refugees in Germany
Woman bring clothing donations to a German Red Cross station in Heidenau, scene of anti-refugee demonstrations last weekend. Photo: DPA

Five ways you can help refugees in Germany

1 hour ago

The Local's pointers for how to get started if you're interested in donating your money, unwanted possessions, time or skills to help refugees in Germany.

FC Bayern takes refugee kids under its wing
Players will walk into the Allianz Arena hand-in-hand with young refugees on September 12th. Photo: DPA

FC Bayern takes refugee kids under its wing

45 minutes ago

FC Bayern Munich said on Thursday that it would help young refugees learn German and play football and donate €1m of the proceeds from an upcoming friendly match.

Berlin hotel extends beds for basketball giants
Dirk Nowitzki (r) - too tall for a normal hotel bed. Photo: DPA

Berlin hotel extends beds for basketball giants

47 minutes ago

The Berlin hotel hosting the international basketball teams playing in the 2015 European championships matches here have extended their beds to 2.50 metres in order to accomodate the giant players.

Migrant crisis
Hungary says refugees are 'German problem'
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (l) and refugees boarding a train at Budapest's Keleti station. Photos: DPA

Hungary says refugees are 'German problem'

4 hours ago

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Thursday the migrant crisis was a German problem, not a European one as he defended his government's handling of thousands of refugees flooding into his country.

Banks jack up ATM fees for non-customers
Photo: DPA

Banks jack up ATM fees for non-customers

5 hours ago

Germany's big private banks are increasing fees for customers at other financial institutions to withdraw cash from their ATMs, making ordinary people pay the price for a bankers' spat.

Berlin mayor christens brand-new U-Bahn trains
Berlin Mayor Michael Müller smashes a bottle of Berliner Weisse beer against the metal skin of a new U-Bahn train to christen it. Photo: DPA

Berlin mayor christens brand-new U-Bahn trains

7 hours ago

The first of an all-new model of Berlin U-Bahn trains was christened on Wednesday evening by city mayor Michael Müller in a typically Berlin ceremony.

Migrant crisis
Biggest EU nations want refugees shared fairly
A man leads migrants in a chant in front of police lines at Budapest's Keleti railway station on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Biggest EU nations want refugees shared fairly

7 hours ago

Germany, France and Italy called for an overhaul of laws on the right of asylum and a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the European Union, Italy's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The Local List
7 ways Germans get English totally wrong
Don't let their confidence fool you: Germans aren't always the best at English. Photo: DPA.

7 ways Germans get English totally wrong

22 hours ago

As much as English-speakers might feel insecure about their Deutsch skills when faced with Germans' comparatively widespread grasp of English, Germans themselves often mess up English - in some pretty hilarious ways.

Mannschaft step forward to welcome refugees
Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger at a press conference earlier this week. Photo: DPA

Mannschaft step forward to welcome refugees

23 hours ago

Germany's World Cup-winning footballers have condemned xenophobic attacks on the thousands of foreigners pouring into their country and led calls to help the refugees amidst the ongoing crisis.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

Features
'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'
Features
How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears
Sport
German named 'arse bombing' world champ
Travel
Retiree finds parked car after three-week search
National
Ten ways Germany puts Britain to shame
Business & Money
German gadget clamps down on Nutella thieves
Society
Is Germany now a nation of couch potatoes?
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,953
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd