#158: Building on Tempelhof, strikes, bike market, Sony Center
The Transport Ministry gets a cold shower
Hey 20 Percent,
Likely mayor-in-waiting, Kai Wegner’s (CDU) plans for the city are taking shape, including two especially heated topics: Tempelhof and the A100.
First, as a way to tackle the housing crisis, Wegner wants to build residential housing around the edges of Tempelhofer Feld. In an interview with Tagesspiegel, he proposes forging a plan through a “competition of ideas” and then letting Berliners vote on the plan through another referendum.
The problem is, Berliners already chose to keep the former airport 100% free from construction in a 2014 referendum, in which 64.3% of participants voted in favour of keeping every inch of the park a park.
Thanks to the acute housing shortage, Wegner thinks he can rustle up a majority in favour of construction this time: “Since the situation has changed significantly from the last referendum, I’m sure that if you present a good plan, there will be a clear majority in favor of developing the edges.”
At least in theory, I’m not against it. But, with Berlin’s poor record of urban planning and corruption in the property sector, the result of a development would probably suck: too much high-end housing, not enough social flats, poor integration with the site, and just a whole bunch of poorly designed ugliness around the field.
Wegner also wants to solve a second conflict in the city with a referendum: the contentious extension of the A100 autobahn through Friedrichshain and up to Prenzlauer Berg. To me, this urban highway plan sounds like a 20th century throwback for a city that’s always pitching itself as progressive and eco. Berlin politicians like Wegner argue that a Weltstadt needs to have cars everywhere. Meanwhile, real “global cities” like Paris and London have been cracking down on private car use quite radically for years.
The centre-left SPD’s still-mayor Franziska Giffey and Wegner are on the same wavelength here: don’t take away cars from regular folks! The two are in talks about forming a new city government without their common enemy, the Greens.
We’ll keep you posted.
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Activists hose down ministry
Who knew you could rent a fire engine? Tuesday morning, climate campaigners belonging to the group Letzte Generation hired a fire truck to spray the outside of the Federal Ministry for Transport with paint and water. In a statement, the group said it wanted to give the ministry a “cold shower”. The target of the protest was transport minister Volker Vissing (FDP), who is seen to be stalling negotiations and annoying other European governments over a new EU agreement to ban internal combustion engines by 2035. Vissing wants the law to allow synthetic fuels after that date.
Works at the city sanitation department BSR, at Berliner Wasserbetriebe (water works), and at public hospitals (Charité, Vivantes) are striking for a second day as part of a larger campaign of industrial action organised by union Verdi. Unions representing 2.5 million public sector workers across Germany are in negotiations with the federal government and local councils. Their central demand is a pay raise of 10.5% or at least €500 per month. Unions have rejected an offer of 5% higher wages and one-off payments of €2,500.
Sony Center revamp
There’s always been something sad about the windswept, glass-and-steel circus tent thing at Potsdamer Platz known as Sony Center. Ever since Cinestar Originals left in 2019, there’s been little reason to visit apart from the Kino Arsenal cinematheque sequestered in the basement. So it’s no surprise that, 21 years after the complex opened, Canadian owner Oxford Properties Group is ploughing €200 million into an all-round refurbishment, as reported by Berliner Morgenpost. Once finished, Sony Center will have a “campus character" with five fitness areas including a climbing wall, a boutique cinema, a roof-top bar and a food hall run by London’s Kerb. The adjacent Allee Arkaden mall was also revamped recently to include a food hall and, no, we haven’t stopped by to check it out.
Need a bike? Berliner Fahrradmarkt is up and running
Berlin’s bike flea market kicked off on Saturday. Now monthly at three locations across the city. The video is in English. Website.
ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism fair, runs from today through Thursday. Last year, thanks to corona, the event took place online. In normal years, the travel show attracts more than 100,000 visitors. Today, Tuesday, our media-hungry, still-mayor Fransiska Giffey (SPD) skipped a final meeting (on the topic of refugees) before a new government is formed in order to attend the ITB.
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Will there be an open competition for ideas on development? If so who will organize it? A general call for ideas would encourage lots of alternative ideas.
Keep Tempelhof the way it is. Birds and other animals also suffer a housing crisis. It's one of Berlin's most biodiverse areas and serves our wellbeing in so many ways. And as you pointed out, Germany seems to suffer from a lack of imagination. Neubau projects are just horrible reflections of how we have come to define living spaces in the image of capitalism and efficiency. It's f*cking depressing.