• Germany's news in English
 

Unpopular waterfront development plans still afloat in Berlin

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
Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims
Photo: DPA

Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel's office Thursday asked the US ambassador to discuss new allegations about NSA spying, a German government source said. READ  

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar
Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-490-3270-06A/Wikimedia Commons

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar

Police searched a villa in a wealthy suburb of Kiel on Wednesday and found a Second World War tank, a torpedo and other weaponry in the cellar. On Thursday they were still working on removing the tank. READ  

Google game slammed over use of death camps
Dachau concentration camp. Photo: DPA

Google game slammed over use of death camps

News that Google is using the sites of Nazi concentration camps as elements in an "augmented reality" project - an online game linked to the real world - has caused extreme upset to Holocaust survivors' organizations. READ  

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye
A Soviet Cosmonaut mosaic in Potsdam. Photo: Digital Cosmonaut

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye

It took a German who spent much of his early life abroad to document some of the hidden, abandoned, or forgotten-about corners of Berlin in English. The Local meets "Digital Cosmonaut", one of Berlin's best-loved bloggers. READ  

Greek President cancels Berlin visit
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos(l) with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Photo: DPA

Greek President cancels Berlin visit

Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of Greece, has cancelled plans to visit Berlin next Tuesday, German media reported on Thursday. READ  

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future
Photo: DPA

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future

UPDATE: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said Thursday that Bastian Schweinsteiger holds his future in his own hands amidst reports linking the Germany captain to Manchester United. READ  

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers
The accident happened on the Autobahn near Dortmund. Photo: DPA

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers

A truck driver crashed his vehicle into a stationary police car on the Autobahn in North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday, killing the two officers inside. READ  

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine
A breast augmentation operation in progress. Photo: DPA

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine

A French appeals court on Thursday found German safety standards body the Technische Überwachungsverein (TÜV) had "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were later found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare. READ  

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal
The RWE brown coal plant in Niederaussem. Photo: DPA

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal

Germany's governing coalition came to a major new agreement on carbon emissions on Wednesday evening. But the reported deal has left environmentalists feeling betrayed. READ  

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice
A photo used by police to track alleged kidnapper Mario S. Photo: DPA

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice

Thai authorities will deliver a man to Germany later this week to stand trial on accusations of kidnapping the wife of a Bavarian banker to finance his lavish lifestyle abroad. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
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

6,912
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd