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Kreuzberg and the tech-giants

Kreuzberg : a fast-changing district

Over the past 15 years, Berlin-Kreuzberg has undergone drastic changes. Originally an  alternative multicultural neighborhood with low-cost rents. Now it is  a trendy hip place  with expensive sorring costs of living.   Tech companies and  start-ups  play an important part in this:switch. 

It is more than often said that tech companies like Zalando are crucial to the development of Berlin. Indeed, this high tech booming business brings money and jobs. As a cheap creative metropolis, Berlin has  an attractiveness for modern companies which  actively promote their employees wellbeing. For instance, by contributing .to child care or other day to day advantages.  As a result, around 60,000 people work in the digital economy  in Berlin. Every year, this number rises. Since, the arrival of  very successful Internet companies, a dramatic change of type of population has been noticed. Long-established Spätis and pubs become fair-trade shoe or soap shops. Old buildings are remodeled into expensive luxury apartments. 

  • MediaSpree Berlin
    MediaSpree Berlin

The best example of this metamorphosis is the new neighborhood on the Eastside Galery. There, Hotels, offices, a huge parking garage as well as the East Side Mall have just opened. This shopping monster complex sums up  over a hundred high end shops. Moreover, by the end of the year, the new headquarter of Zalando will be ready. On 100,000 square meters,  2,500 people will work to further expand Zalando’s supremacy on Europe’s online trade. There are no apartments in this new district. There are only two reasons to be here: working or consuming. 

What if  tech companies help change the city by first excluding old time berliners? How to keep the Berlin creative spririt despite being engulfed into consumerism in inhospitable new districts such as the East Side Gallery commercial complex? What If Berlin  only becomes a tourist backdrop for tech  companies to stage themselves?

Silicon Valley : an example ?

How exactly do these tech companies contribute changing a  city? A look into the Silicon Valley is helpful: The corporate headquarters of Google, Facebook & Co have built small cities into the city . From  hairdressers to doctors everything is concentrated in small private malls  only available for their own employees. The idea is a fully integrated as well as networked, smart city. In here, everything manages itself and is  trimmed for ultimate efficiency.

Rents around high tech  companies increase to the max. A small room in a shared apartment can cost up to  $ 1,400 in San Francisco. Therefore, the number of forced evictions has increased by 70%. Tech companies provide prosperity  indeed, yet also combined with a new type of economic segregation.

A complete analysis here (popup): a true scientific work by
Cassandra R. Stumer

Google in Kreuzberg

When Google announced its intention to open headquarters in Kreuzberg, the whole neighbourhood has reacted by protesting. . For fear of displacement and rising rents, people organized into groups like “Google fuck off” or “Google is a good neighbor” and questionned the real motives behind this installation. In November,  Google retreated. A success for the protesters.

Building on this experience, now we should ask ourselves : which city we really want? Is it primarily a commodity and market, a place that we consume and where we consume? Are efficiency and optimization the most important thing cities need? Do we want Amazon instead of local booksellers? Do we prefer Deliveroo with poorly paid drivers instead of small neighborhood restaurants? Tinder instead of the next corner bar?

How do we prevent companies like Google or Facebook from skimming Berlin’s creativity and ironing the city to its technocratic standards? Maybe, Berlin needs city-owned fablabs to develop non-commercial ideas for the future. It is time for us to discuss what our own  city should really look like. How to use the creative potential of the city without giving up its very own identity?

.See previous post also

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