US company buys Berlin squat for €150m

UPDATE: An iconic building in Berlin, which was occupied by squatting artists for two decades, has been sold to a US investment fund for €150 million.

US company buys Berlin squat for €150m
The former squat is set to be redeveloped by a US investment firm. Photo: DPA

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The five-storey Tacheles building, which was a magnet for tourists until its closure in 2012, was sold by the German Jagdfeld group to the New York-based Perella Weinberg Partners, reports said.

The dilapidated, graffiti-covered building will be renovated and turned into apartments and shops, and new buildings will be added at the site.

There are also plans to stage cultural activities at the former department store.

"We are pleased to wake this site from its slumber and begin a new chapter here," Leon Bressler, a spokesman for the US fund, was quoted as saying by the Berliner Zeitung. "We're convinced of the potential of the German capital."

He added that the project would "create a new attraction" in the capital's Mitte district, in former East Berlin.

Young artists flocked to East Berlin after the fall of the Wall in 1989, drawn by the low cost of living, and squatted or moved their workshops into disused buildings.

The huge Tacheles building, which stretches over 1,250 square metres (13,454 square feet), was first taken over by squatters in 1990 and accommodated dozens of artists.

At its peak, the remnants of the 1909 department store housed a cinema, theatre, restaurant and bar as well as artists' studios and galleries.

The colourful site became a popular tourist attraction and nightspot, drawing some 400,000 visitors a year.

The site was bought by Jagdfeld group in 1998 and was rented for a token €1 until 2008.

But the beginning of the end came that year when administrators HSH Nordbank began demanding market rates in rent, pushing the association into bankruptcy.

The last artists were evicted in 2012 without resistance, though they did stage a protest by playing a funeral march ahead of the police's arrival.

SEE ALSO: Berlin's squats are at your service

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‘Berlin is dying’: Protests as police clear one of capital’s few remaining squats

Police cleared one of Berlin's last squats on Friday, as a symbol of the German capital's free-spirited ideals faces the reality of soaring rents and gentrification.

'Berlin is dying': Protests as police clear one of capital's few remaining squats
Berlin police cleared the Liebig34 squat on Friday. Photo: DPA

Berlin mobilised hundreds of law enforcement officials to evict residents of the “Liebig34” site in Friedrichshain, a hip part of former East Berlin where property prices have risen sharply.

But far from the street battles feared by Berlin authorities, the evictions were relatively peaceful.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, blocks of abandoned houses in the east of the capital were taken over by students, young people, artists and activists. Some of the squats were subsequently legalised as housing projects.

The self-described “anarchist-queer-feminist” building on the corner of Liebigstrasse, with a facade covered with graffiti and banners, has been offering shelter to about 40 women, trans and intersex people since 1999.

A bar and a self-managed cultural centre helped the collective to raise part of the money needed to pay the rent.

READ ALSO: In graphs: How gentrification has changed Berlin

But investor Gijora Padovicz, who owns the building, decided in 2018 not to renew the lease for Liebig34.

Faced with the residents' refusal to leave their homes, he filed a lawsuit, which he won, culminating in Friday's eviction.

Police removed residents one by one from the four-storey building, an emblem of Berlin's fading “poor but sexy” image, the marketing slogan of the city's former mayor Klaus Wowereit.

Protesting against the police action, Anna Mai, whistle in hand on the edge of the police cordon, said Liebig34 was “a symbol of the diversity of this city which shouldn't only belong to the rich. Berlin is dying”.

“It goes against human rights to throw people out on to the street in the middle of a pandemic, when they cannot pay their rent,” Moritz Heusinger, lawyer for the Liebig34 collective, told AFP.

“They are becoming homeless.”