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Another Post-Bar25 Update

June 22, 2012

The crowd at the “open door” day for the launch of the Holzmarkt/Mörchenpark project.

Recently, there’s been some more news on the Holzmarkt/Mörchenpark project. The city has changed its plans for the property that’s up for sale, and this might benefit the bid and development proposal put forward by the Holzmart/Mörchenpark team. In a recent article in the Berliner Zeitung (from which I’m getting most of my information for this update), the author Karin Schmidl summarizes the changes thusly: “No high-rises, no office-building monolith, no hotel blocks.” Whose development proposal was already free of all these things? That’s right: Holzmarkt.

As you might recall  from my previous posts on the topic, all of this has to do with the question of what to do with the property where the (in)famous Bar25 used to be located. Since closing in the fall of 2010, the property has lain fallow, while the previous owners of the bar opened up a “new and improved” reincarnation directly across the river, called Kater Holzig. A few weeks ago (and conveniently coinciding with the release of the documentary/love-letter about Bar25), some of these former Bar25 staff announced the opening of two parallel projects that they hoped to build on the old Bar25 premises. Holzmarkt was supposed to be a live-in community, atelier, and market for artists and artisans. Mörchenpark was to be a child-friendly play area that plays on German fairy-tale themes while also providing the sort of wholesome, nature-oriented, Waldorf-School-esque children’s activities that make yuppie parents wet themselves in excitement. They immediately started raising money for both projects, with the intention of putting together a proposal and submitting it with a bid for the upcoming public auction on the old Bar25 premises.

An information board explaining the plans for the project, at the open-house launch back in May.

Over the course of this past week, the city hall for the borough (Bezirk) of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain announced that the redevelopment process had been more or less set back to square one, with a new set of criteria. Gone are the original “Mediaspree” plans to fill the space on 10–30 Holzmarktstraße (Bar25 having been located at 24-25) with a dense forest of high-rise office buildings, hotels, and luxury condos. Instead, there should be more public spaces and living quarters; the borough’s mayor Franz Schulz (Green Party) was quoted as saying that the building density will be reduced by one half. The borough council ratified the changes nearly overnight, since the open auction on the property was coming to an end.

On the one hand, these recent changes to the city’s redevelopment plans means that the current property owner, the city-owned public sanitation company BSR (Berliner Stadtreinigungsbetriebe), will probably not get as much money for the property as they had originally expected. Fewer high-density building complexes means fewer bits of “vertical real estate” that the developers can then sell off for a profit. So, the city can probably expect the bids to go down.

On the other hand, this probably helps the chances of the Holzmarkt/Mörchenpark project, since their proposed building plans already fit these new development guidelines. In fact, if you go to the Holzmarkt home page, you’ll now see an interactive map for building plans that not only cover Bar25’s previous address, but in fact the entire strip of land from Holzamarktstraße 10 to 30. They’ve added a restaurant (roughly where the original Bar25 used to be), a block of student housing at the western end, a hotel to the east, a club/theater near the middle, and they’ve absorbed Mörchenpark into the project towards the west of the premises. I imagine that they’re going to have to do some very careful spin-control about the club and hotel, since their initial fundraising materials promised that this project was not about rebuilding Bar25 and most opponents of the earlier Mediaspree plans would not be excited to see more valuable living space being turned into hotel rooms.

It’s still not at all certain that the Holzmarkt project will win this bid, but their grassroots-style, anti-commercial, communal, and Mediaspree-critical approach has caught the attention of much of the media. They’ve rather cleverly put a lot of public pressure on the city by making their building proposal the moral favorite for the public, even if it’s not the economic favorite. So, in a way, the question now is: how would residents react if the Holzmarkt project were to be declined in favor of one of the larger property management companies?

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