Tourists versus residents: densification planned

At Checkpoint Charlie, instead of new shopping facilities, space is to be created for housing and small-scale commerce.

Checkpoint Charlie still looks like a missing link in the urban fabric Photo: dpa

Last Saturday at Checkpoint Charlie, twelve noon: High noon in the public participation process for the future design of the last vacant areas to the right and left of Friedrichstrasse at Checkpoint Charlie. Between all the tourists, two market stalls were set up in front of the BlackBox Kalter Krieg on the corner of Zimmerstrabe and a few seats were repositioned. Folders with the development plan are available – you just have to know how to read the corresponding map. But you are allowed to ask questions.

Manfred Kuhne, head of department at the Senate Department for Urban Development and responsible for this area of "extraordinary urban significance," has also come. His authority has drawn up the new B-Plan. Kuhne explains what is new about the plans in front of a microphone and notepad. It primarily concerns two areas on both sides of Friedrichstrasse.

On the western side, in the apron where the round building of the Wall Panorama now stands, a pentagonal city square is to be preserved. And on the opposite side of the street, an extended forecourt of the planned Wall Museum is planned. This "place of education and remembrance" did not exist at this location in the previous plans. Instead, the Berlin Wall Foundation wanted to be accommodated as a tenant, partly underground, somewhere in the investor’s architecture. Now, the museum is even to have its own entrance. The rest of the areas up to Schutzenstrasse that have been cleared for construction remain reserved for residential and small-scale commercial use in the current B-Plan.

Hotel does not come

The construction of a Hardrock Hotel is thus off the table. The real estate developer Trockland had actually intended to do so. But the Senate, which had already signed a letter of intent with Trockland last summer, changed its mind. Trockland had come under fire over the winter for dubious sources of money. Trockland denies all accusations, but now the Senate is planning – at least officially – without a fixed investor. In the meantime, Trockland has allowed an option to buy the land at Checkpoint Charlie, which is encumbered with a high land charge, to lapse. But Trockland would apparently still like to build, according to the company representatives who were also on site on Saturday.

For potential investors, however, the return on investment will probably be significantly reduced by the new B-Plan. Neither hotels nor extensive shopping facilities are allowed anymore. Instead, housing dominates. Up to 300 residential units would now be possible.

What the B-Plan does not regulate, however, is the traffic situation in this neighborhood, which will in future be very densely populated. Chaos often reigns on the street due to the many tourists crossing, the parked coaches and the passing cars and cyclists. The protection of historical monuments, which would like to see the existing firewalls and the relics of the former border fortifications lying dormant in the ground secured and exhibited, also has hardly any lobby.

The interests at Checkpoint Charlie thus continue to seem confused between tourists, residents, possible investors and the administration. The Senate has so far shied away from the state’s right of first refusal for cost reasons. But wouldn’t this be a unique chance to keep this missing link in the urban fabric open as a reminder of the division during the Cold War? An almost comprehensive development, as shown in the B-Plan, would basically obscure the special significance of the place.

The development plan is open for comments from July 1 to August 2 at the Senate Department for Urban Development, Wurttembergische Strasse 6.