• Germany's news in English
 

Gritty Reeperbahn faces growing gentrification

31 Jan 2012, 07:26

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

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.”

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
Robber threatens woman with “HIV syringe”
File photo: DPA

Robber threatens woman with “HIV syringe”

36 minutes ago

A shocked woman in Munich called police on Sunday evening after a man climbed into her car, demanded her purse – and threatened her with a syringe he said contained HIV.

Day in court for first Loveparade disaster case
Crosses adorn the stairs which festival-goers fought to reach to escape the crush. Photo: DPA

Day in court for first Loveparade disaster case

1 hour ago

July 2015 marked five years since one of the worst tragedies in modern German history. But this week, those affected by the 2010 Duisburg Loveparade disaster will finally see the case come to court.

Refugee crisis tests EU's core ideals: Merkel
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Refugee crisis tests EU's core ideals: Merkel

1 hour ago

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said the refugee crisis facing Europe is testing the core ideals of universal rights at the heart of the European Union.

German named 'arse bombing' world champ
Going down with a bang. The splash diving championships 2015. Photo: DPA

German named 'arse bombing' world champ

4 hours ago

Summer went out with a bang - and a splash - in southwest Germany, where the finals of the "arse bombing“ world championship 2015 were held on Sunday.

Formula One
Rosberg 'overwhelmed' by birth of daughter
Formula One Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg with his wife Vivian. File photo: DPA

Rosberg 'overwhelmed' by birth of daughter

5 hours ago

Star Formula One driver Nico Rosberg confirmed on Monday that he and his wife Vivian are now the parents of a baby girl, saying the couple were “overwhelmed and totally in love”.

'No limit to refugees Germany can take in'
Refugees arrive at an intake centre. Photo: DPA

'No limit to refugees Germany can take in'

6 hours ago

Germany's top official dealing with refugees said on Monday that there was 'no upper limit' to Germany's capacity for taking in people in need of asylum.

Berlin orchestra's Tehran concert blocked by Iran
Daniel Barenboim. Photo: DPA

Berlin orchestra's Tehran concert blocked by Iran

7 hours ago

Iran has barred famed conductor Daniel Barenboim from entering the Islamic republic because of his Israeli citizenship, thwarting his plan to lead a performance in Tehran, media reported Sunday.

Bundesliga
Dortmund reclaim top spot with Hertha win
Borussia Dortmund celebrate scoring against Hertha Berlin. Photo:DPA

Dortmund reclaim top spot with Hertha win

8 hours ago

Borussia Dortmund reclaimed top spot in the Bundesliga from Bayern Munich on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over Hertha Berlin -- their eighth straight win under new coach Thomas Tuchel.

Germany's friendship vow to Afghanistan
Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Afghanistan on Sunday. Photo:DPA

Germany's friendship vow to Afghanistan

8 hours ago

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that German friendship with Afghanistan had "no end date" as he visited Kabul under tight security on Sunday.

Migrants crisis
German media and celebs rally for refugees
A welcome party for refugees in Heidenau on Friday. Photo: DPA

German media and celebs rally for refugees

23 hours ago

Germany may have witnessed violent anti-refugee protests this week -- but the message from the country's media and celebrities is a loud and determined welcome for people fleeing the horrors of war.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

National
Weekend of anti-refugee violence shocks Germany
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

6,967
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd