• Germany edition
 
Gritty Reeperbahn faces growing gentrification
Photo: DPA

Gritty Reeperbahn faces growing gentrification

Published: 31 Jan 2012 07:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 31 Jan 2012 07:26 GMT+01:00

With a four-star hotel soon joining the brothels on Hamburg’s legendary Reeperbahn strip, Stephen Lowman reports how the city’s “sinful mile” is changing.

At least the name fits Hamburg’s famous red-light district.

Called the Tanzende Türme, or Dancing Towers, because of their curvy design, a €180-million development will house 33,357 square meters of office space alongside a posh, four-star hotel.

On their website, project developer Strabag Real Estate says the high-rise towers set to open this summer reflect Hamburg’s “creativity, modernity and urbanity.” That may be. But they also represent a new highpoint in the ongoing gentrification of St. Pauli, a neighbourhood traditionally known for its punks, prostitutes and blue-collar workers.

Strabag, a Vienna-based company, will locate their German headquarters to the Tanzende Türme. Eight hundred of their employees will begin working there in August. According to the company, several marketing and law firms have expressed interest in renting space in the towers, which have the address Reeperbahn 1.

There goes the neighbourhood?

Large building construction in the city isn’t new. Hamburg is Germany’s second most populous city and one of the wealthiest in Europe. Along with the Church of St. Nicholas and the town hall, construction cranes and scaffolding have become familiar sights on the city’s skyline.

But the changes to St. Pauli, the neighbourhood surrounding the Reeperbahn, have been especially dramatic.

“About 15 years ago the Reeperbahn was kind of this dirty place,” said Kai Ladebeck a Strabag developer working on the project. “Now it has the reputation as a kind of Broadway.”

“There are still prostitutes of course, but in addition there are a lot of entertainment options even for young families – not just for the boys,” he said.

George Harrison once called Hamburg “the naughtiest city in the world” because of the Reeperbahn’s criminality and carnality. But some 50 years after The Beatles lived and played there, it has learned some new tricks.

The strip has been cleaning up its character for the past several decades. In 1986, the family-friendly musical “Cats” opened just off the Reeperbahn and ran for the next 15 years. “Mama Mia!” followed. McDonald’s purchased the street level portion of the venerable Hotel Lausen bordello in the late 1980s. Finer dining and fancier clubs moved into the area. Sex seekers, meanwhile, have increasingly gone online.

To be sure, the neon lights of strip clubs, sex shops and seedy bars still exist on the Reeperbahn. However, many traditional sex clubs have not fared well. The Hotel Luxor, a brothel that had been in operation since 1948, closed in 2008. And of the several erotic cabaret shows that once lit up the street, only the Safari club, where you can pay to see live sex on stage, remains.

Ladebeck said the towers would continue the transformation by bringing more “daylife” to the neighbourhood.

Rising rents

As the neighbourhood’s appeal has broadened, its housing costs have risen. Critics say more affluent apartment seekers are squeezing long-time residents out of the area and that what St. Pauli really needs is not more offices but more affordable housing.

“The Tanzende Türme are a symbol of the city development politics, which does not fit the needs of the people,” said Steffen Jörg, a community activist whose 2009 documentary “Empire St. Pauli” explored the neighbourhood’s ongoing gentrification.

The average rent offer in St. Pauli increased 16.6 percent from 2005 to 2009, according to a report by the Hamburg-Mitte urban planning office. The same study showed rents citywide rose on average four percent over the same time period. (The most recent figures from the Hamburg tenant association show the average rent price in the city for 2011 climbed 5.8 percent over 2009.)

“We need flats for people with low incomes and nowadays the city is just interested in commercial real estate. This is totally besides everything people need in St. Pauli,” Jörg said.

Indeed, despite economic uncertainty demand for office space has remained steady. Hamburg ended 2011 with an eight percent office vacancy rate, according to Colliers International, with just over a million square meters of vacant space in the city. The average price for office rentals increased 11.5 percent from 2010.

Still, the stock of public housing in St. Pauli has not changed much over the past decade. According to a city database, the neighbourhood had 2,027 so-called Sozialwohnungen in 2010, up marginally from. 1,941 in 2000.

As St. Pauli transitions from gritty to glam the fight is likely to continue between residents old and new. In a gesture of goodwill, however, Strabag Real Estate invited their neighbours over for a BBQ every time another floor of the towers was completed.

“We invited everyone to visit,” Ladebeck said. “Including a residence for seniors that live near the project.”

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

18:03 January 31, 2012 by bugger
As happened in other cities, the real rich will make themselves drastically richer on the back of the poor. What a bizarre sight, seeing tourists sitting in front of cafes watching the Geile Meile (horny mile) in anticipation of something wild to happen among the underprivileged while paying over 10 Euros for their latte macchiatos.

Hamburg's moneybags already have destroyed the historical fish market and uglified the harbor silhouette; they did not succeed on the Hafenstrasse yet. But only money rules in Hamburg, and they will not give up until the last bit of working class history is gone in exchange for overpriced luxury for the yuppies.

They want the working class structures for the nouveau riche to boast about working class background they never had.

Soon not worth a visit anymore.
00:00 February 1, 2012 by willowsdad
Take a lesson from New York, now a heavily gentrified and even more heavily sanitized city.
Today's headlines
April wraps up with stormy week ahead
Lightning over Lake Starnberg, in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

April wraps up with stormy week ahead

The end of April is looking stormy for Germany with hot and cold air mixing and making for wild spring weather over the coming few days, state forecasters DWD said on Wednesday. READ () »

Germany sold €40 million of arms to Russia
Russian troops pictured in March in Crimea. Photo: DPA

Germany sold €40 million of arms to Russia

German arms sales to Russia have come under fire following the crisis in Ukraine. In 2012 Germany sold €40 million worth of rifles, pistols and armoured vehicles to the country. READ () »

Munich to get 'Tetris cube' hotel
Photo: Nieto Sobejano Architects, Berlin

Munich to get 'Tetris cube' hotel

Munich's old city centre is to receive an ultra modern addition to its skyline in the shape of a new hotel dubbed 'the Tetris cube'. READ () »

The Local List
German beer culture in 11 gulps
Photo: DPA

German beer culture in 11 gulps

Wednesday marks the 498th anniversary of Germany's celebrated beer purity law, so in honour of nearly half a millennium of hoppy history, this week's Local List tells some beer truths you may not know. READ () »

Feminist's apartment advert goes viral
Photo: Screenshot/Facebook

Feminist's apartment advert goes viral

Finding accommodation in Berlin is notoriously tricky. But one woman on the hunt might have a particularly hard time of it, with an advert for an apartment so absurd it has gone viral. READ () »

Russian spies step up activity in Germany
The Russian embassy building in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Russian spies step up activity in Germany

Russian spies are increasingly targeting potential informants in German politics and business by taking them out to dinner, according to counterintelligence services. READ () »

Jobless benefits to get leaner and meaner
Photo: DPA

Jobless benefits to get leaner and meaner

The German government is planning a shake-up of the country’s unemployment benefit system, Hartz IV, by introducing stricter rules on claimants in a move which supporters say will cut bureaucracy. READ () »

Germany's oldest woman dies aged 112
Gertrud Henze. Photo: DPA

Germany's oldest woman dies aged 112

Germany’s oldest woman died at the age of 112 on Tuesday. Gertrud Henze was born on December 8th 1901 and joked her long life was down to never getting married. READ () »

Exchange student 'murderer' stays silent
Police search the area near where Gabriele's body was found in October 2013. Photo: DPA

Exchange student 'murderer' stays silent

The alleged murderer of an exchange student in southern Germany stayed silent in the dock on Tuesday on the first day of his trial. READ () »

European Elections 2014
'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'
Hans-Olaf Henkel (r) celebrates the one-year anniversary of the AfD with leader Bernd Lücke. Photo: DPA

'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'

In an interview with The Local, one of the leaders of Germany's eurosceptic party talks about Europe's future, why Britain is a model country and why he will not work with UKIP's Nigel Farage. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
Interview with AfD - 'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'
Photo: DPA
National
Police damage own water cannon with eggs
Photo: DPA
National
Let us start work later after World Cup nights, unions says
Photo: DPA
Society
Crystal meth use hits record level
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

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

3,051
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd