Hermannplatz in Berlin has been home to a huge branch of German department store Karstadt since 1929. It changed owners last week and according to reports from industry magazine Immobilien Zeitung, may become the city's newest branch of Irish clothing brand Primark.
The border between fast-gentrifying Neukölln, and Kreuzberg is, property expert Christoph Meyer, boss of CM Best Retail Properties told the magazine, “really hip again.” It had, said Meyer, “good prospects for the future, especially for a fashion-orientated company like Primark.”
Struggling Karstadt handed over ownership of its buildings in 2006 to a company called Highstreet Holding. It has rented from them since. Last week, Highstreet Holding sold the 38,000 square-metre Hermannplatz building to Meyer Bergmann.
Neither Dutch-run Meyer Bergmann nor Karstadt would comment on the sale, but Immobilien Zeitung said it had insider information that architects had begun working on plans to transform the building into a Primark.
“Karstadt used to be the biggest and most modern department store in Europe, but after the Second World War it withered into just another average local shop,” said Meyer. The building sustained serious damage in the Second World War and was rebuilt. A symbol of the city's pre-war glamour, it used to have two towers on top, but they were taken off.
The chain was saved from insolvency in 2010 by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen. Since then it improved slightly but is still weighed down by financial woes and striking staff.
Around 3,000 people work in the Hermannplatz shop, which stretches over nine floors – two of which are underground – and includes a gym and its own U-Bahn stop and a car park with 680 spots.
There is only one branch of Primark in Berlin currently. Another is set to open on Alexanderplatz in the centre of Berlin.
Residents near Hermannplatz will have to wait and see if the Karstadt building will become the third but, one option reported by the Berliner Zeitung newspaper would be that Primark moves into one floor of the building.