Exploring Charlottenburg: a mix of old and new in central Berlin

(Part One of Two)

The traditional neighbourhood of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, named after historic aristocrat Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, Queen consort of Prussia, has long been an area associated with affluence and culture. Ever improving, this district is known for its brilliant mix of old and new, with many residents choosing to live in the area because of the unique combination of rich history and comfortable modernity.

A Long History of Affluence, Culture and Commercial Value

An independent city until 1920, Charlottenburg was then incorporated into Greater Berlin and became known as the ‘New West’ during an era known as ‘The Golden 20s’. At this time, the many theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants which populated the district gave Charlottenburg the title of Berlin’s leisure and nightlife capital.

This reputation ended with the rise of the Nazi party and the area was heavily damaged in World War II, by both air raids and the Battle of Berlin. However, after 1945, the area quickly regained its influence by becoming the commercial city centre of newly-divided West Berlin.

Charlottenburg Today: A Luxury Retail Destination and Upmarket Residential District

Post-reunification, Charlottenburg is still known as one of the most upmarket areas of the city, with high-end bars and restaurants attracting a bourgeoisie crowd of wealthy residents and visitors.

A shopper’s paradise, Charlottenburg’s famous Kurfürstendamm (often abbreviated to Ku’damm) has been likened to London’s Bond Street and Paris’ Champs-Élysées; the Ku’damm shopping boulevard is packed with designer flagship stores and boutiques, while KaDeWe is the largest department store in Europe.

Aside from being Berlin’s biggest retail destination, Charlottenburg has preserved its historic status as a diverse cultural hub. The area is home to a range of museums, hotels and theatres; an Olympic Stadium from the controversial 1936 Olympic Games; an opera house; Germany’s oldest mosque still in use; and West Berlin’s Chinatown on Kantstrasse, dubbed ‘Kantonstrasses’ after the Canton area of South China.

Of course, Charlottenburg’s most iconic landmark is the picturesque Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace, pictured above), which is the largest surviving royal palace in Berlin.

A Popular, Established Neighbourhood with a Bright Future

The ruins of Charlottenburg’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church date back to the 1890s, but today they stand alongside towering hotels and contemporary office blocks on the Ku’damm. This mix of old and new best defines the character of Charlottenburg and ultimately, Berlin’s ongoing transition from a city divided to a global-minded metropolis that is looking to the future.

How Germany’s south became the backbone of a vibrant economy

It is hard to imagine now that southern Germany – Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria – was very poor in the 19th century, a largely agricultural area little touched by industrialisation. After the second world war, when hard graft and financial aid via the Marshall plan resulted in Germany’s “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle), the region rose to become the country’s economic powerhouse.

Today the south is Germany’s most prosperous part and home to tens of thousands of small and medium-sized privately-owned companies – known as the Mittelstand – hi-tech clusters and household names such as Daimler and Bosch. (more)

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German finmin upbeat on economy in budget debate

BERLIN, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Germany’s economy is cooling but fears of a sharp slowdown are overblown and there are few downside risks to the government’s forecast for 0.7 percent growth this year, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told lawmakers on Tuesday.  Opening a parliamentary debate on the draft 2013 budget with a bullish speech, Schaeuble said Europe’s largest economy had become more resilient to shocks such as the global slowdown thanks to structural reforms and policies.

Germany, seen as the sick man of Europe 10 years ago, now has the lowest jobless rate since reunification in 1991 and the highest employment levels in its history, Schaeuble said. “That we are better positioned is not only obvious in (these labour market developments), but something more fundamental has changed and that gives us all confidence, also for future developments,” he told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. (more)

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German-American Economic Ties Strengthened by Machines

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 BERLIN and CHICAGO, September 9, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — The German and American machinery industries are more interlocked than ever. Demand for German machines in the USA, Canada, and Mexico have grown by 25 percent since the beginning of the year, according to a recent report from Germany’s VDMA industry association. And with 56 projects in 5 years, the USA is the number one investor country in Germany’s machinery and equipment industry, a further sign of strong business ties. Germany Trade & Invest will have representatives at this year’s IMTS in Chicago from September 10-15 to highlight business opportunities for international companies in Germany. (more)

Germany Leads With Its Goal of 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Germany is demonstrating steady progress in unshackling itself from fossil fuel dependence by converting to renewable energy sources. Polls show that more than 80 percent of the nation favors development of homegrown wind, sun and geothermal energy alternatives and escape from importing the bulk of oil, gas or uranium from foreign sources. In economic terms, Germany is an early adopter. The large industrial power, second after China, takes on risks and costs of an untested technology. But it also shapes the world market, setting standards and a global example on energy security – not to mention creating thousands of clean-power jobs or saving countless lives by reducing pollution and conflicts over fossil fuels. Uranium, like oil or gas, is limited in supply, even though prices are temporarily low. The government’s delay in phasing out large, highly profitable nuclear power stations will slow investment in fledgling solar and wind industries – adding more uncertainty to the globe’s energy future. (more)insider german property investment

Germany is the new retail expansion hotspot

A report by Barclays says that Germany figures as their favourite site for overseas expansion, beating China and Australia. Also, two thirds of British retailers expect their overseas sales to increase in the coming five years.

Richard Lowe, head of retail & wholesale at Barclays, have said that most British retailers favour Germany because the climate is much similar to Britain, so money or energy need not be spent on reinventing designs. Another possibility also cannot be discarded, that in the recessionary environment, the German economy is doing comparatively better. (more)

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Ugly No Barrier for Apartment Sales in German Boom: Mortgages

With small windows, low ceilings and drab facades, the concrete apartment blocks favored by East Germany’s communist regime are known as Plattenbauten for their prefabricated panel construction. Now they are hot properties, caught up in a German real estate boom driven by foreign investors seeking a safe place to put their money.

A sale of 38,000 Dresden apartments owned by Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG), many in the socialist-era estates, may be Germany’s next big residential deal after firms including New York-based Blackstone Group LP (BX) and Cerberus Capital Management LP made purchases that included Plattenbauten this year. (more)

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German Housewife Hailed as Euro Solution

STUTTGART, Germany — As a simmering euro crisis threatens to boil over, European leaders are again focusing their attention on Germany, widely regarded as the only country that could save the currency union. Opposition to debt runs deep in the country.

In the parks of Stuttgart, the regional capital of Swabia, there are few signs of a crisis, and the economy is growing. (more)

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BBI in the news again – From NY Times- Affluent Buyers Seek a Piece of Berlin’s Past

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… Darrell Smith, whose company Buy Berlin focuses on helping foreigners find properties in the city, said it had become more difficult to find high-quality historic apartments over the past year because demand had skyrocketed. “Basically, the demand is being driven by more people wanting vacants because they want to take advantage of touristy areas,” he said, noting a move away from the tradition of buying occupied apartments and continuing to collect rent from the existing tenants. (more)