Berlin is a city of dreams, dreams of blossoming, tree-lined streets. Schöneberg's Kurfürstenstrasse is lined with erotic department stores and furniture centers. The notoriously run-down street is a prostitution hotspot and is now being developed with new condominiums at a whopping Euro 5.000 per square meter and more. And because the new quarter is rising up on an empty lot tucked between the State Labor Court and the Twelve Apostles Church, there's no risk that residents will go against the developers, accusing them of gentrification.
When introducing Caree Voltaire, the project developers pointed out the impending neighborhoods „morbid charm“ and the „thrill of moving to an unfinished neighborhood.“ But is it worth it? Caree Voltaire says yes. It may be realistic to believe that Kürfürsten- and Potsdamer Strasse are destined to experience a similar revamp. Just like the self-proclaimed American counterpart, the „Potse“ neighborhood is very central, only minutes away from Zoo Station. It's also right by Tiergarten, Berlins Central Park equivalent, and the famous KaDeWe department store.
But realistically, those who buy an expensive apartment here will be in and out of the red-light district for a few more years to come. The'll also have to put up with daily deliveries to nearby furniture discounters and maybe even wilfully indulge in the occasional Euro 2 Döner Kebab, the Turkish dish made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie that has become Berlin's trademark food. If anything, developers and buyers are actually doing something to revamp an area that suffered from countless years of social neglect. Perhaps one day, Potse will bloom again.
The housing shortage is also in full swing heading south towards Berlin's Bavarian Quarter, the Bayerische Viertel. Here, investors have started to add housing in the neighborhood's many spacious courtyards. In Meranerstrasse, for example, developers recently completed a five-storey building with 15 apartments. And because demand keeps soaring, 80 square meter apartments are going for around Euro 410.000.
12.000 new apartments became available in Berlin in 2015
Building protests are inevitable, especially since over 100 tenants will experience high rent increases once the courtyard's central building is completely renovated. The district authorities that issued the building permit are particularly upset: Initially, the builders had promised to greenify the current tenants' communal courtyard. But their exposé proves otherwise: their brochure is all about selling condos with terraces and „private gardens.“ Time will tell who ends up on the greener side.
Just last year, Berlin registered 50.000 new residents. And as the city grows, so has the tug and pull between old Berliners and Berlin newcomers. Caught in between is the city's urban development minister, Andreas Geisel, a member of the Social Democrats. His main challenges are based on building permits, as each planned new building is immediately greeted by countless citizens' initiatives trying to shoot the project down. And while everyone is in favor of solving the problems resulting from the city's apartment shortage, no one wants to be the one to feel a solutions' direct effects. Nevertheless, investors and developers continue to set up high-priced projects with fancy-sounding names.
A new courtyard building on Aschaffenburger Strasse right by the Charlottenburg Castle was duly named „Chateau.“ And the new „Perle im Kiez“ is a literal pearl in the Schöneberg's Motzstrasse. It hides away in the courtyard's interior, safely surrounded by the Altbau building at the front.
Historically-oriented locals have mixed feelings about Berlin's recent courtyard revival. In his memoir „Berlin Childhood around 1900,“ Walter Benjamin described the oppressive narrowness of Berlin's old tenement courtyards. And still, building authorities are confident that the new development in Schöneberg's Meranerstrasse will not cause „unbearable“ shade or any additional impairment to tenants. But those who have spent hot summer nights in a Berlin apartment facing the courtyard will know how short the nights and how noisy the neighbors can be.
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