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    • Abstract: As a place where East and. West Europe confront each other so closely by sharing the same ground, Berlin is in fact. a prime example to look at the impact of current spatial and institutional changes in all of ... In the case of Berlin, the German planning policies have to change not only to conform to ...

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Concentration paper
Submitted by
Linda Mitrojorgji
In partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning Degree
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
December 2003
This paper presents findings and reflections on the urban regeneration practices taking
place at the neighborhood level in Berlin, Germany. This city was chosen because it
represents a very special case of urban regeneration problems. As a place where East and
West Europe confront each other so closely by sharing the same ground, Berlin is in fact
a prime example to look at the impact of current spatial and institutional changes in all of
Europe. These transformations are elicited on one side from simultaneous and complex
spatial and institutional changes happening in Eastern European cities and on the other
side from the emergence in the European Union of a common framework for the urban
development of its member states.
For decades western European countries have been practicing urban regeneration
programs dealing with issues of spatial and social integration, in the effort of preventing
segregation and slum creation. With the emergence of the European Union came the need
of outlining a common framework for urban and regional planning as a mean of
preventing uncoordinated and shortsighted development activity that may result from
disparities in planning frameworks on the bases of which different countries operate
(Graute, 1998).
In the case of Berlin, the German planning policies have to change not only to conform to
such EU directives but also to confront the problems brought about by socialist planning
implemented in East Berlin. Incidentally, such issues are very similar to those faced by
other Central-Eastern European cities as they seek future membership in the EU and are
under pressure of reforming their planning framework to conform to the EU agenda. The
main difference in urban regeneration practices between Western and Central-Eastern
European countries is that in Central-Eastern states social polarization has not advanced
much yes (although there are tendencies toward it), so the planning response can still
have a preventive nature (Fietz & Knorr-Siedow, 1999).
The paper will investigate the current trends in local planning practices which are
impacted by the specific local conditions and by the overall tendencies in European
planning. By focusing on Berlin as a case study this work aims to give a better
understanding of the present situation in a place bearing strong implications for urban
regeneration efforts in Western and Central-Eastern Europe. It relies on various sources
of primary data such as on-site observation, interviews with officials at different levels of
local government (such as planning offices at the city, district and quarter/neighborhood
level) and on documentation collected on site.
In the following pages, first I will provide an historical background of the city of Berlin
and of the problems emerging from its urban development (including the different urban
problems and solutions characterizing East and West Berlin prior and post reunification).
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
Then I will concentrate on the current tendencies and approaches to urban regeneration
by focusing on the analysis of three different Berlin neighborhoods. Last, I will close
with possible lessons emerging from my analysis of Berlin’s urban regeneration efforts.
In the mid of the 19th century the removal of ring fortifications around towns became an
important stimulus for the outward growth of German towns and brought the need for
extension planning. In 1858 the Prussian government had ordered the Berlin police
authorities (at the time in charge of law enforcement in town planning) to produce a
large-scale extension plan. The work was entrusted to James Hobrecht, an official in the
Police Building Department trained in architecture and civil engineering. The plan,
published in 1862, had exceeded in scale anything previously attempted in Berlin and
was sufficiently far-sighted to remain in power until 1919 (Sutcliffe, 1981).
In 1862, the Hobrecht master plan for a greater Berlin extended the existing radius street
system (fan system) with buildings organized in a typical block structure. The blocks
were big (200 meters by 300 meters) in order to reduce street building costs. These
blocks were made of buildings not higher than 22 meters, developed around courtyards,
and characterized by a mixed social structure, with the upper and middle class living on
the side of the buildings which was facing the street and the lower class living in the
inner parts, which were facing the courtyard (Sutcliffe, 1981). The Hobrecht plan was
more of an infrastructure master plan and did not provided details regarding the density
of buildings and apartments in each block, minimal setbacks or green areas required.
Therefore, block composition was left to developers, which often resulted in
overcrowded blocks with minimal amenities (Lampugnani, 2000).
With the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the 19th century industrialization
across Europe paired up with Berlin becoming the capital of the united Germany brought
growth and development to the city. During this time Berlin experienced an increase of
wealth and industrial power specifically in the sector of new technologies. In the first
wave of industrialization the take-off of the steel and iron industry made Berlin a very
important intersection of railways connecting East and West. In the second wave,
electricity opened the way to the development of communication, lighting and streetcars.
Such concentration of industries also made Berlin the most important city in Germany for
banking and insurance and a city equipped with the highest level of services. At the same
time, Berlin became an important pro-innovation center with government institutions and
universities attracting and supporting scientists from all over Germany and Europe. These
fast economic and social developments resulted in population growth and speeded up
new developments in the urban structure of the city (Lampugnani, 2000).
In the early 20th century Berlin was one of the first European cities to experience
suburbanization. This was the result both of dynamic development of new manufacturing,
which brought along construction of housing for workers in the surrounding areas, and of
the introduction of new means of transportation (cars and mass transportation) that made
possible quick commuting for people that could afford to live outside the city.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
With the Nazis coming into power, new ideas about city’s urban form were introduced.
The nationalistic government appointed architects to rebuild Berlin as the ‘imperial city’,
a process that got interrupted by the war.
Urban Regeneration in Berlin before Reunification
After its physical division in 1961, Berlin found itself living as a dual city with two
conflicting political and economic systems on each side of the dividing Wall. East Berlin,
trying to distinguish itself as a symbol of the socialist ideology, followed the socialist
principles of cityscape, such as large boulevards with monumental administrative
buildings on the side and housing concentrated in large estates and prefabricated blocks.
The prefabricated housing was extensively used because of the influence of the Fordist
mass production model which was widespread all over Europe and because of the need
for fast and cheap housing to rebuild the country after the war mass destruction (Kemper,
1998a). Since the industrial development was spread evenly throughout East Germany
(GDR) according to the socialist principles of equal distribution, there was not much to
distinguish Berlin in terms of specific functions of a capital city. The city lacked
commercial activities and only a concentration of cultural and government related
concerns were supporting the image of a capital city. Suburbanization was interrupted
since the socialist ideology promoted equal living conditions for all, regardless of social
status, with the state providing equal housing for everybody. Although private property
on housing existed even during the GDR time, rents were controlled to the point that
owners could not bear expenses for maintenance and reconstruction inside and outside
the apartments. This was a main reason why the existing housing stock degraded over the
years, making new prefabricated housing preferable for East Germans (Levine, 2002).
On the other side of the wall, West Berlin was trying to survive thanks to the subsidies
from Western Germany (Strom, 1996). Headquarters of main corporations traditionally
located in Berlin had migrated to other cities of West Germany. Frankfurt took the
banking functions and became also the biggest transportation node in West Germany and
one of the most important in Europe. Big corporations such as Siemens as well as most
insurance companies moved to Munich, while media and press became concentrated in
Hamburg. Only very few companies and light industries remained in Berlin, mostly
supported from subsidies from the West (Kratke, 1992; Kemper, 1998b). Due to these
developments, the focus of urban regeneration in West Berlin shifted toward remedying
defects in urban function caused by the specific spatial condition of the city (an island,
inside the GDR) and providing social compensation for people enduring the limited
opportunities associated with living in such an isolated city (Häußermann & Strom,
The impact of reunification
The influence of reunification on the economy was, at least on paper, quite relevant. It
raised a lot of hopes that the market economy would launch promising developments,
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
giving back to Berlin the role of thriving capital of the united Germany, as it used to be
before the Second World War.
However, things did not go this way, and the reunification soon created major problems
for the economy. The eastern state economy fell into crisis because its industries were not
able to resist free competition, since they were outdated and short on investment.
Moreover, this industrial collapse was accelerated from a drop in orders from Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union, usual customers for these industries that were themselves
going through economic crisis. Therefore, East Germany experienced high
unemployment rate, lack of employment opportunities for young people and migration of
its citizens looking for better-paid ‘Western jobs’ (Kratke, 1992).
As a consequence, Berlin underwent significant changes in its social and economic
structure. Between 1990 and 1997 Berlin experienced a job loss of 350,000 units,
250,000 of which only in the manufacturing industry. As of 1999, Berlin still had one of
the highest unemployment rates in the whole Germany, at 15%. In some districts this
figure was even higher, reaching 29.2% (Nagel, 1999). This high unemployment rate
went along with comparatively low wages and salaries, insufficient qualification and
sustainability for young people entering the market and increase in crime rate amongst
young males.
The reunification also had a strong influence on the population structure, which reflects
well the economic hardship of Berlin as part of those of the whole Eastern Germany. The
table below (obtained from the Office for Statistics of the City of Berlin, whose data is
available at http://www.statistic-berlin.de/home.htm) provides a very interesting
description of the changes in the population size and structure after the reunification.
Table 1: Population in Berlin from 1990 to 1998
West- East-
YEAR TOTAL Germans Foreigners
Berlin Berlin
1990 3.433.695 2.157.969 1.275.726 3.118.117 315.578
1994 3.472.009 2.170.998 1.301.011 3.082.348 393.044
1995 3.471.418 2.170.311 1.301.107 3.065.304 406.705
1996 3.458.763 2.162.098 1.296.665 3.046.289 425.129
1997 3.425.759 2.139.728 1.286.031 3.023.669 435.094
1998 3.418.060 2.134.934 1.283.126 2.984.331 433.729
Source: Statistisches Landesamt Berlin, 1999.
As shown in the table, after the reunification Berlin experienced an initial population
growth followed by a decline; as of 1998, its population was even less than in 1990. This
population decline was accompanied by other interesting facts in terms of population
composition. From 1990 to 1998, while the total population declined, the number of
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
foreigners grew 37.4%. Additionally, during the same period the German population of
Berlin decreased 4.3%. A few factors may explain this phenomenon:
prior to reunification, Germans living in West Berlin were receiving special treatment
and hardship subsidies just for living and working in this isolated enclave. These
subsidies were cut right after the reunification, leaving no incentives for West
Germans to stay in Berlin and not look for better job opportunities elsewhere (Strom,
severe economic crises following the fall of several communist regimes in Eastern
Europe spurred migration from such countries and strongly contributed to the sharp
increase in the number of foreigners living in Berlin. A lot of people from Russia and
other former Soviet republics, as well as Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and former
Yugoslavia migrated to find better job opportunities and Berlin, being the new
German capital with promising economic developments, attracted many of these
immigrants (Jones, 1996);
while the suburbanization that was made physically possible after the fall of the
Berlin wall fostered movement to the suburbs (Brandenburg area) of people who
could afford it, only a few were wealthy enough to do so. In fact, according to 1997
data, the migration to the surrounding countryside from 1990 to1997 was still modest
at the rate of 0.23% (Nagel, 1999).
In the beginning of the 1990s in Berlin there was a housing shortfall of about 100,000
dwellings; however, as result of out-migration and population losses experienced in the
inner city areas, Berlin has currently a housing surplus of 60,000 dwellings (Nagel,
1999). It is this surplus of housing that contributed to increased mobility within the city
and led to rapidly developing segregation of population groups, in the form of social
polarization between rich and poor residents or between Germans and foreigners
(Cochrane and Jonas, 1999).
The integration problem of foreign migrants in Germany, and in Berlin in particular, is
not new. This problem has been present since the after-war period (around 1960s) when
the Fordist model of industrialization led to a high demand for labor force. At that time,
Germany borrowed this labor force from countries like Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and
Vietnam. The so-called ‘guest workers’ were primarily employed in the manufacturing
sector. With the oil crisis in the early 1970s and the associated manufacturing slump, the
organized migration stopped and unemployment grew high among guest workers. Most
of the Italian, Greek and Spanish components of the guest worker population returned
back in their home country, since these economies had recovered enough from war
destruction and were able to re-absorb them. Additionally, the emergence of the
European Union and the perspective of free movement associated with it meant that they
could move again if they would like to do so in the future. This did not happen for other
migrant workers, though. In particular, since Turkey was not a member state of the EU,
Turkish decided to stay since they were extremely reluctant to return home without a
guarantee that they would be able to choose again where to work and live. As a
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
consequence, later migration to Germany was characterized from increase of Turkish
inflow as result of reunification of families, new marriages between migrants in Germany
with people in Turkey and asylum seekers (Kemper, 1998b).
The reunification of Germany and the collapse of communist regimes throughout Eastern
Europe brought back in Germany a considerable number of foreigners with ethnic
German background (mostly Russian) as well as a lot of economic migrants from these
countries. The impact of such developments on Berlin population structure resulted in a
percentage of foreign population of 12% in the mid 1990s, out of which 31.3% were
Turkish, 17.9% former Yugoslavian, 6.7% Polish and the rest from different other
nationalities (Kemper, 1998b). The problem of integration of foreigners is very complex,
difficult and has to do with cultural, religious and economic differences as well as legal
issues (especially citizenship). For example the Turkish population in Berlin although
being residents in Germany for decades does not acquire German citizenship. They have
been successful in consolidating their community, creating a thriving ethnic sub-economy
in the service sector, preserving their culture and language and even concentrating in
certain neighborhoods of the inner city like Kreuzberg. The high concentration of such
population group does not provide an incentive for integration as they identify themselves
as part of their own community, a problem that is found also in the younger generations
(Hillmann, 1999).
After the reunification there has been a consistent effort toward urban regeneration. Apart
from the numerous new constructions following the transfer of the government to Berlin
and the reconstruction of the city center, the city is also undergoing a major urban
regeneration at the neighborhood level. This process attempts to satisfy different goals
such as dealing with problematic economic and social situations brought about by new
developments, re-instituting the traditional urban structure and protecting the social mix
against segregation.
After the reunification Berlin’s local government and planners were confronted with
several major problems:
high-level of unemployment; at 15.3%, it is the third highest unemployment rate in
Germany (Nagel, 1999);
surplus of housing (60,000 vacant dwellings in the urban area as of 1999);
increase in mobility within the city and regions (Nagel, 1999);
segregation of population groups, in particular Germans vs. foreigners, and East vs.
West Germans (Nagel, 1999).
Other western European countries have been dealing with such development-related
problems for decades, but these were new phenomena in the post-reunification Berlin
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
which all together led to the emergence of new types of disadvantaged urban areas.
Recognizing the existing development differences between West and East Berlin,
between neighborhoods and also between certain areas within a neighborhood, a study
conducted by the Ministry of Urban Development identified in details parameters for
these new ‘disadvantaged areas’ (Nagel, 1999; Senate Department for Urban
Development, 2003a). Specifically, the study identifies three different types of
disadvantaged areas:
‘problem areas’, where the external unattractive appearance is combined with social
marginalization of local inhabitants (old build-up areas in the Western inner city
where, since before reunification, the segregation had already proceeded to a
considerable degree);
‘doubtful areas’, which are located in the Eastern inner city (old build-up areas,
currently undergoing dynamic developments, where segregation has not progressed
much and problematic developments can therefore be anticipated);
‘areas in need of additional development measures’, which are represented by the
large new housing estates in both East and West Berlin and show different
segregation patterns. Here the housing is new but not attractive to people, with
location having a lot of influence on its attractiveness.
The pre-1990s urban renewal efforts can be characterized as one-dimensional approaches
since they focused primarily on the physical upgrading of deteriorating areas (Levine,
2002). Such approach could no longer cope with the complexity and variety of the
emerging problems in many Berlin neighborhoods. For this reason, in 1999 the City
government (Berlin Senat) passed a resolution establishing a Neighborhood Management
Program (called Quarter Management, or QM) in 15 areas with special problems and
development requirements (Figure 1). Specific tasks characterizing this neighborhood
management program are:
networking and coordination between various interest groups in the area;
motivation and organization of residents, to make them more actively involved;
initiation of projects aiming at the social, economic and cultural stabilization of the
monitoring and evaluation of these different projects.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
Figure 1 – Berlin Map showing the location of the 15 QM areas.
For each Quarter Management team, the neighborhood appoints one coordinator and the
Ministry of Urban Development another. Furthermore, the advisory board of QM consists
of specialists in the specific problems characterizing the neighborhood as well as of
active participants from the neighborhood. The members of the QM team have a local
office in the area, to which the neighborhood or housing companies contribute by
providing rent-free office space or covering costs for office supplies and equipment
(Senate Department for Urban Development, 2003b).
The establishment of Quarter Management areas also responds to the necessity to adhere
to EU directives of decentralizing planning policies, which is also the most important
criterion for being eligible for Structural Funds from EU. The national government has
supported the QM program since 1999, spending a total of 13.2 million Euros (up to
2002). For the 2000-2006 period, 39 million Euros will be made available by the
European Fund for Regional Development (EFRD) of the EU. If the Federal State of
Berlin wants to benefit from these EU and national government programs, however, it
also has to contribute. From 1999 to 2002 this co-financing amounted to 39.5 million
Euros. Hence, the bill for the QM program for the 1999-2002 period has been split in the
following way (Senate Department for Urban Development, 2003a):
National Government – 13.2 million Euros;
European Union – 22.3 million Euros;
Federal State of Berlin – 39.5 million Euros.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
To better understand the QM program, I decided to study it on site, using a mix of
personal observations and interviews with participants in this process. The following
three sections contain analyses of three different QM areas: North Marzahn, Prenzlauer
Berg and Schoneberg (Socialpalast). I choose these specific areas among the 15 the
program is dealing with mainly because of their variety. They embody variety because
they are quite different, geographically and in terms of the main neighborhood features,
and because (as a consequence) the problems they express are varied. I thought that by
studying very different contexts I would be able to cover as thoroughly as possible the
wide spectrum of urban regeneration interventions enacted by QM. Little I knew that, at
least when it comes to the relationship between problems and solutions, the more things
(problems) change, the more (solutions) stay the same.
The North Marzahn district: In search of identity.
The North Marzahn district is a large prefabricated housing estate in the North-East
fringe of the city, existing since 1979 (Figure 2 and 3). Created during the GDR period, it
is the largest complex of this type completed in GDR. It was designed to accommodate
150,000 inhabitants and consisted of individual residential complexes which were largely
self-sufficient for shops and services (Hubacher, 2000). To live there was a privilege in
the 1980s since the existing housing stock in the inner city districts was in very bad
condition. North Marzahn represented a prime example of the good and modern housing
the socialist society was able to provide (Dorsch, Häußermann, Kapphan, Keim,
Kronauer, Schumann, Siebert, and Vogel, 2000).
Figure 2 - North Marzahn. Figure 3 - North Marzahn.
However, the type of construction soon led to a series of physical problems. The
problems of physical conditions of prefabricated housing are very complex, ranging from
the quality of construction, to structural problems inherent in this type of construction
(such as insulation, ventilation, steel corrosion, etc.), and go beyond the purpose of this
paper. However, given that even in the medium term the resources to be utilized for
replacement of prefabricated slab-type buildings with new constructions would be much
higher than renovating the existing ones (Schümer-Strucksberg, 1998), the Senat of
Berlin decided to revitalize and urbanize the large housing estate.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
In a series of personal interviews with Dr. Bettina Reimann and Prof. Marlies Schulz, I
got a much deeper insight on specific developments in North Marzahn. After the
reunification, with the introduction of mobility, the area suffered from loss of population
(about 16% from 1992 to 1999; Reimann & Schulz, 2000) and more importantly from
loss of identity. At the time of the GDR the professor and the clerk lived next door from
each other; today things are quite different, since the place where one lives is associated
more and more with one’s status, thus becoming a matter of prestige. Thus, young
generations and people that can afford living in the inner city districts left these
apartments, often for places with more character, better connected through public
transportation and with the ‘more urban’ setting they can find in the inner city districts.
Currently, the area is inhabited by people that have been living there for most of their life,
new families with young children who consider living there as a temporary solution and
migrants from eastern countries. A different category of migrants in this neighborhood is
represented by ethnic German population returning to Germany from the former Soviet
Union after the reunification. Since the so called ‘ethnic Germans’ have German
citizenship, they do not count as foreigners in the population statistics, but they share
many of the same integration problems with other foreigners. Approximately 35,000
ethnic Germans have settled in Berlin in the 1990s and one third of them live in Marzahn.
A lack of language proficiency coupled with a depressed labor market limit their access
to jobs in Berlin. The integration of young ethnic Germans in society is also harmed by
the fact that being discontent with their parents’ decision to move to Germany, they still
consider themselves as ‘ethnic Russians’ (Dorsch et al, 2000). The net result of this
attitude, added to their lack of language proficiency, is that the German population at
large does not consider them Germans at all (Dr. Reimann, personal interview).
Marzahn Berlin
People under
14.9% 14.0%
15 years old
People above
8.4% 13.8%
65 years old
Household size 2.2 1.9
3.4% 12.9%
Source: Reimann & Schulz, 2000.
Therefore, the main problem that this neighborhood has to cope with is one of social
exclusion. The Quarter Management in the area is trying to help people integrate in
society by financing different training programs for different age groups and creating
more of a neighborhood feeling by bringing people together in social and cultural
activities. They attempt to initiate residents’ participation, empowering them to be part of
this revitalization process, also by providing tenant advisory services and organizing
language courses and cultural activities and festivals for residents of different
backgrounds and origin.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
As part of the physical improvements, the QM role is to coordinate renovation projects
for improving the physical conditions of existing housing stock. The immediate
improvement projects include: addition of elevators to buildings, redesign of building
entrances, creation and maintenance of green areas and kindergartens (to make the place
more attractive to all ages), as well as modification of apartments’ floor layouts to better
suit the needs of the existing population (for example: there was a high number of vacant
three bedroom apartments, which were converted to spacious two bedroom apartments
which are more needed). In the future, additions of penthouse floors to the 4-story high
type buildings is considered, as well as supplementary new housing construction around
the prefabricated structures (Schümer-Strucksberg, 1998).
Prenzlauer Berg: The “Hip” place to be.
Prenzlauer Berg is a complex case of urban regeneration process. As Berlin became one
of the densest industrial cities in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, Prenzlauer Berg
was one of the most overcrowded working class neighborhoods. The five-story, old-style
tenement buildings, developed in the typical block structure, were quite charming when
seen from the street. However, in the rows of back buildings, working class families
shared very small apartments overlooking dark and narrow courtyards (Figure 4). These
buildings lacked proper heating and sanitary conditions, often having only one toilet per
floor shared by as many as eight flats (Levine, 2002).
Figure 4 - Reconfiguration of traditional tenement block structures.
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
During the GDR years this already decaying neighborhood was ignored by the
communist government for several reasons. For the government, it would have been very
expensive to invest in the reconstruction of these buildings, to bring them up to decent
living standards. Private property on such housing existed but rents were controlled to the
point that owners alone could not bear expenses of maintenance and reconstruction on the
inside and outside (Häußermann & Strom, 1994). Moreover, favoring the construction of
high rise prefabricated buildings, the government used the old style block buildings as
testimony of the capitalist inequalities. Families soon abandoned them for new
apartments in the prefabricated housing blocks which provided much better living
conditions and surrounding amenities such as public open spaces, shops, schools and
services (Levine, 2002).
Located relatively in the center of Berlin, close to the new center (Alexander Platz) as
well as to The Wall (a sad reminder of history for Germans, hence a location not favored
by most), Prenzlauer Berg became home for outcasts and dissidents, i.e. people that did
not quite fit in the society. Not being comfortable living in other parts of the city, they
choose this neighborhood since they preferred to be left alone as the neighborhood was.
By the end of 1990s the neighborhood was in a desperate state. Pieces of facades and
whole balconies had fallen down and were not replaced (Figure 5), one sixth of the
apartments were vacant, 43% of the apartments did not have a private toilet and 23% had
an outdoor toilet (Bernt & Holm, 2002).
Figure 5 - Prenzlauer Berg district: Existing conditions of old style tenement
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
With the fall of The Wall, similarly to what happened to other neglected areas situated
along it, Prenzlauer Berg suddenly found itself in the center of the reunited Berlin. Being
very well served by public transportation, above and under ground, and having very low
rent apartments, it started to be repopulated by students, craftsmen, artists and people
living on welfare. The combination of its history of a neighborhood in opposition to the
former communist regime, its newfound centrality and the character imparted by these
new dwellers have made Prenzlauer Berg a ‘hip’ place to live, prone to gentrification
(Levine, 2002), a well-known phenomenon even for American inner city neighborhoods
(although in the US it has different roots).
New entrepreneurs started to look at this area as a promising real estate investment
(Häußermann & Strom, 1994).After the reunification, part of the housing stock was given
to the city since ownership claims were very questionable (with different property claims
coming from pre-war and/or after war eras). The Senate now controls the rent in most of
this housing. Dwellers have been strongly opposed to the selling of this housing stock to
big real estate companies since this would cause gentrification, raise the rents and force
them to move out. In some of these housing blocks residents came together in the form of
cooperative and carried on the reconstruction with help from the government. As for the
private owned housing, there is political pressure not to change rent prices which is
generated by lobbying of people that have been living there for a long time (Strom, 1996;
Prof. Schulz, personal interview).
Currently, different parts of this district are undergoing reconstruction under different
programs that work in parallel with each other, such as S.T.E.R.N. and Quarter
S.T.E.R.N. is a redevelopment agency contracted by the state of Berlin to manage the
redevelopment of the area. It gained its reputation in the field of neighborhood
management as a result of a ‘careful urban renewal’ approach that it took during the
1970s in Kreuzberg, a West Berlin neighborhood. The S.T.E.R.N. approach is based on
physical improvements and sees urban renewal as a process that has to address the needs
of current residents, who have to be involved in the planning process (Levine, 2002).
Hence, its goal in Prenzlauer Berg is to preserve areas in their original destination
(residential as residential, and commercial as commercial), with no change in use.
The physical reconstruction generally consists of providing apartments with better
amenities, according to today’s standards: updating the heating and water system,
reconfiguring the apartment layout with decently sized rooms, adding private bathrooms,
refinishing the outside facades that were falling apart, replacing balconies (a feature
particularly liked by residents), providing ground floor space for commercial activities,
improving the existing green areas and public spaces as well as providing new ones. This
careful renewal takes into consideration the historic urban structure and the population
composition of the neighborhood. The building reconstruction and urban infill projects
(Figure 6) preserve the historic value of individual buildings and the theme of ‘urban
blocks’ and ‘inner courtyard’ in which they are organized (Burg, 1995).
Mitrojorgji Urban Regeneration in Berlin
Figure 6 – Infill projects in traditional city blocks
Nevertheless, this is a ‘critical reconstruction’ as “it has never aimed either at the
restoration of existing conditions or at a nostalgic urban plan, but rather at the formation
of a differentiated and contemporary urban structure” (Burg, 1995, p.13). In this context,
the reconstruction preserves the block setting but demolishes certain inner parts in the
back rows of blocks to make space for bigger courtyards with common green space
(Figure 4 and Figure 7). Such intervention also gives more natural light and air to the
apartments facing inner courtyards. To preserve the population composition of the
neighborhood (at present a young population made mainly of students, artists and young
couples), the reconstruction is not dramatically changing the layout of the apartments.
The layouts are improved by adding private bathrooms, enlarging the room sizes to
today’s standards but still keeping the typical unit at the size of one to two bedroom
apartments. Where possible, loft style apartments are introduced because on one side
open floor layouts work well when floor plans don’t have enough outside wall to bring
light into the apartment and are too small for being divided in rooms, while on the other
side such style is very appealing to the present community.
As for Quarter Management, its objectives in the neighborhood are to increase public
involvement and help cooperative efforts with regards to social problems of the
neighborhood. Only one area of Prenzlauer Berg, Helmholzplatz, is also a Quarter
Management area. This is an area of about 84 hectares, with a total population of about
19,000, out of which 11.4% are non-Germans (Senate Department for Urban
Development (2003a). This

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