Google+ Gentrification Alert: Wedding | The Needle: Berlin

Gentrification Alert: Wedding

At dinner last night on Schoenleinstraße in Kreuzberg, I was surrounded by people who live in Wedding and love it.

Are you surprised? Wedding?!

This is what I overheard: It’s Berlin at its most multicultural; it’s edgy and arty; it’s got great transport links all over the city;  it’s still incredibly cheap. Don’t tell anyone: Wedding’s a secret!

A secret?

Honestly, I’ve had a hard time figuring out Wedding. When I get off the U-Bahn at S-Bahn Wedding and walk north, I shield my eyes from the ugliness: the brutalist Burgeramt that looks like it’s about to fall over, the aridity and shabbiness of the public parks at Leopoldplatz; the migraine-inducing six lanes of roaring traffic on Müllerstraße. The tawdry commerce of the beat-up Karstadt and your usual suspect chain stores disgrace the memory of a historically ‘Red’ neighbourhood. The only thing I find reassuring is the diversity of people on the streets.

Don’t worry, I think your secret’s safe.

Now hopefully everyone has written off Wedding after that last description and stopped reading this post. The rest of you probably know already that Wedding has a number of low-key Kiez that are off the radar for most Berliners and some beautiful parks (including the mountainous one built over the old Nazi flak tower at Humboldthain).

One of the most exciting places here is Stattbad Wedding (a disused swimming pool now used as a theatre, film, and arts space that has become an institution for the local arts community).  I like this place so much that it deserves a separate post in future. There’s also plenty happening around U-Bahn Nauener Platz (U9), with a crop of wine bars having opened on Malplaquetstraße (Spiritus Mundi and Weine und Geflügel) and good restaurants (Berlin’s best pierogies are here at Pierogania).

But today, I went off to explore the Sprengelkiez (the area around U-Bahn Amrumer Straße (U9)), which seems less urbane than the area around Nauener Platz, but somehow more under threat of massive changes of gentrification.

If you’ve been reading the German blogs on gentrification in Wedding, the Sprengelkiez is the neighbourhood that is mentioned most often. ‘Gentrification pioneers’ are coming in, bringing up rents, and this is already part of local public debates organised by a Rental-initiative group. There’s plenty to hint that there is change in the air here. There’s a mix of attractive Altbau ‘Classikers’––rambling old-world apartments which fetch ever-increasing prices with their dwindling market in Berlin––with Neubau social housing of often low-income immigrants.There’s the telltale sign of a new Bioladen (organic food shop), with a group of yummy mummies  sipping Italian coffee outside, near a couple of new funky cafés. (I’m always a little taken aback that the signs of encroaching gentrification are also the same ones which might make the neighbourhood a nicer place for young and arty people to live). There’s also the fact that there’s a big hospital complex nearby, and soon the German Intelligence agency offices (the BND) will open a few stations away on the U6 line–with 2000 new employees transferred here from Southern Germany looking for a leafy place to live.

You follow the main axis Torfstraße from the U-Bahn station to the canal and pass many African goods stores, and an African media bookshop and community centre. The neighbourhood is incredibly diverse: there’s also a Pakistani dry goods store, and (apparently very good) Korean (Shikgoo) and Indian (Naveena Path) canteens. When you get to  the canal there are some pretty café terraces (of Fünf und Sechzig, the oldtimer Deichgraf, or Auszeit with its vintage chic). Down Triftstraße, in a lot hidden behind some high-rise housing, where we hear the sounds of someone practicing a Chopin Étude, there are some shabby stairs leading into a basement. There is located a remarkable and hidden microbrewery called Hausbrauerei Eschenbräu, one of those unexpected and hidden places that might wow your visitors with your local knowledge of Berlin.

But the impression of the Sprengelkiez is ultimately a little like that of the canal it looks over which is shaggy, unkempt, and dotted with industrial installations. The domesticated comfort of Kreuzberg’s Landwehrkanal is not on offer here. The charm is something different: patchy, rough and unfinished. Acquaintances who live here describe it to me as: ‘a quiet place to come home to’ or ‘a little bit on the edge with a fast train’. It’s true you can be at Zoo station in 7 minutes flat by U-Bahn, or in Mitte by bike in not that much more time. But the Kiez has the feeling of an island, a slightly forlorn separateness, which it shares with so much of exposed  and ramshackle Wedding. And hopefully it’s precisely this patina of degradation, which overlays the diversity and hidden fascinations of this vast area of former West Berlin, which will keep the arriviste surgeons and spies at bay for just a little bit longer.



8 Comments

  1. ebe wrote:

    Wedding is still a bit of the wild wild west, but we’ve made a home here and continue to love it. Our area around Gesundbrunnen was protected by the Flakturm and so some of the older buildings of Berlin still stand. Shopping and connections to other areas of the city are easy. What’s not to love?

    The trash, rising rents, and generally hidden hot spots?….yeah, we’re working on loving those.

  2. Jez wrote:

    I lived in Berlin in Prezlauer Berg, Friedrichhain and Neukölln and now in Wedding.
    From my experience Wedding is the culturally most diverse district so far. It’s not so obvious like in the other ones mentioned, but that’s what it makes it for me the best place so far.
    It’s more relaxed somehow.
    Transportation is awesome. Even tough not officially within the S-Bahn circle – due to historic reasons, I’ve learned – it’s the best connected area I’ve lived so far.
    Cost of living is a charme, and some of the best yet mostly unknown restaurants and diners are here.
    Recently a lot of young people moving here and new bars popping up.
    Overall: I love it. The only downside is that you always have to explain yourself why you chosed to live in that neighbourhood because there is fortunately no ‘Hip’-tag on this part of Berlin yet 😉

    • Salma wrote:

      Hey there : ) my friend and I are moving to Berlin in a month, and we rented an apartment in Wedding. We are both design students in our final semester, and we’re pretty excited. However, what do you recommend we know about Wedding from beforehand, since you’ve lived there?
      Thank you!

  3. Wiegald wrote:

    Dude,

    you totally missed the yb far BEST beerstore in Berlin (if not Germany), the reason beer afficinados travelling to Wedding every day. Its the Hopfen&Malz in Trifstrasse (http://hopfenmalz.de/) the most Hipster place in Wedding also has something to do with beer. Be aware of a high concentration of beards, skinny jeans and huge glasses at Vagabund Brauerei (http://vagabundbrauerei.com/)

  4. Jochen wrote:

    to all of you: go home!

  5. joe wrote:

    99 percent of the things written about Berlin are by clueless people.
    crap art,rubbish and urban decay is cool.
    Under all these fuckwits this amazing city carries on.Dont expect to be welcomed but there so much to see).

  6. [[JP: I’ve quickly translated a valuable comment below into English. Scroll down for the German original]:

    I am a visual artist and have been working in an industrial space [on Gerichtstraße in Wedding] for 12 years. There are commercial enterprises located in the complex and about 70 artist studios at affordable prices. At the edge of the complex are apartments housing tenants who are socially vulnerable. The artists here were not discoverers or pioneers, but have existed for a very long time in this location. Years, in fact. For a long time there was no change at all, only a little after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But with the construction of the new Federal Intelligence Ministry location in nearby Chausseestraße, and the construction of an adjacent new residential building, “Garden Living”, interest in the neighbourhood has been increasing about Liesenstrasse, located in Wedding, since around 2012.

    Stadtbad Mitte [formerly a public pool then arts space], diagonally opposite our industrial space, is being demolished to build 402 apartments for students. This sounds good at first. Except that the apartments are available for purchase (for children of rich parents) or for investors at the cost of 6,394 € per square meter. This is very, very expensive for Wedding. The investors are promised good returns (rental cost without utilities at approx. € 20 / sqm).

    GESOBAU, our landlord, is now also planning great things and wants to terminate the rents of commercial occupants in the industrial complex by the end of 2017. This will destroy a few firms, because they do not know where to go and cannot pay for the move (for example Bergmann, which produces tools for the automotive industry). In this way, a co-existence is destroyed: the juxtaposition of residential, commercial and ateliers. The visual artists have been receiving more publicity and GESOBAU is anxious to cast itself in the right light, having had this cultural location for years, and therefore does not want to kick out the artists. The commercial yard is to be reconstructed in a grand style and the sums tendered for the renovation are in amounts above 16 million euros. GESOBAU, as they say, is commissioned by political authorities to provide housing. Here too, student apartments are to be built on a grand scale.

    The artists are supposed to give up their original studios, their working areas are to be reduced, and the studios, which until now have mostly been located on the upper floors because of the necessary light, will be pushed into the darker, disadvantaged parts of the building, and partly into the cellar / basement. The area of studio space available will evaporate, to about half of what we have now.

    Not far from Gesundbrunnen Centre are approximately 400 other units (http://www.campusviva.de/mieten/berlin/) with similar conditions and prices as at the Stadtbad.
    Not far from there, also in the Brunnen Quarter near Mauerpark, are once again 193 student facilities: http://www.grothgruppe.de/_Web/UI/projekte/ProjektDetails.aspx?id=122

    If all this is implemented as rapidly as foreseen, Gerichtstraße will no longer be recognisable.

    **
    GERMAN ORIGINAL:

    Ich bin Bildender Künstler und habe seit mehr als 34 Jahren mein Atelier in der Gerichtstraße 12-13 in einem Gewerbehof. Dort gibt es Gewerbebetriebe, ca.70 Künstlerateliers zu bezahlbaren Preisen und jeweils am Blockrand Wohnungen mit vielen sozial schwachen Mietern. Die Künstler waren hier nicht die Entdecker oder Vorreiter, sondern schon sehr lange hier und in bestehenden, z.T. jahrelangen Leerstand eingezogen. Lange hat sich hier überhaupt nichts verändert, nur wenig nach dem Fall der Mauer. Mit dem Bau des neuen BND-Standorts in der nahen Chausseestraße und den angrenzenden neuen Wohnbau „The Garden Living“ schleicht sich die Begierde seit etwa 2012 über die Liesenstraße in den Wedding.
    Das Stadtbad Mitte, schräg gegenüber der Gerichtshöfe, wird gerade abgerissen, um dort für Studenten 402 Apartments zu bauen. Klingt erstmal gut. Die Apartments werden zum Kauf angeboten für Nutzer (Kinder reicher Eltern) oder für Investoren zum Quadratmeterpreis von 6.394 €. Das ist sehr, sehr teuer für den Wedding. Den Investoren werden gute Renditen versprochen (Kaltmiete ca. 20€/qm)
    Die GESOBAU, unsere Vermieterin, plant nun auch Großes und will in den Gerichtshöfen den Gewerbemietern bis Ende 2017 kündigen. Das zerstört einige Betriebe, da sie nicht wissen wohin und den Umzug auch nicht bezahlen können (z.B. die Fa. Bergmann, die Werkzeuge für die Automobilindustrie herstellt, steht dann vor dem Aus). Und es wird eine Struktur zerstört: das Nebeneinander von Wohnen, Gewerbe und Ateliers. Die Bildenden Künstler haben mehr Öffentlichkeit und jahrelang hat die GESOBAU mit diesem Kulturstandort sich ins rechte Licht gesetzt und will daher den Künstlern nicht kündigen. Der Gewerbehof soll in großem Stil umgebaut werden und die Ausschreibungssummen für die Umgestaltung bewegen sich in Größenordnungen oberhalb 16 Mill. Euro. Die GESOBAU hat, wie sie sagt, von der Politik den Auftrag, Wohnungen zu bauen. Entstehen sollen auch hier in großem Stil Studentenapartments. Die Künstler sollen ihre angestammten Ateliers aufgeben, ihre Flächen werden verkleinert und die Ateliers, die bislang wegen des nötigen Lichts meist in den oberen Etagen angesiedelt waren, kommen nun in den dunkleren, nachteiligen Teil des Gebäudes, zum Teil in den Keller/Souterrain. Die Atelierflächen werden auf etwa die Hälfte eingedampft.
    Nicht weit entfernt davon am Gesundbrunnen-Center entstehen ebenfalls etwa 400 Einheiten http://www.campusviva.de/mieten/berlin/ zu ähnlichen Konditionen und Preisen wie am Stadtbad.
    Unweit davon, ebenfalls im Brunnenviertel nähe Mauerpark, noch einmal 193 Studenten-Aparments: http://www.grothgruppe.de/_Web/UI/projekte/ProjektDetails.aspx?id=122
    Wird dies alles, wie vorgesehen, so rasant umgesetzt, wird man z.B. die Gerichtstraße bald nicht wiedererkennen.