Thursday, October 04, 2007

Excuses, Excuses

Thanks to Kean for connecting the dots on this one.

I've suspected Potsdamer Platz was in trouble for some time. An early symptom of this was when the strange "music experience" show downstairs closed precipitously. Not long after, a Sony Records person I knew from the States came over here to find out why Sony Records Germany employees didn't want to move to Berlin and work at the Sony Center. Apparently morale was horrible, but it did, it must be admitted, pick up: Sony, at the start of merger negotiations with Bertelsmann, moved to Munich.

That's right: besides the fancy branding-store there, there's no Sony in the Sony Center.

Nor, apparently, is there any Daimler-Chrysler in the Daimler-Chrysler Center these days, since this article hints pretty strongly that both the Sony Center and the Daimler-Chrysler complex are on the market. And that's mostly what there is to see at Potsdamer Platz these days.

Besides the architecture -- which I think is best seen from afar, for the obvious reason that you can't see a skyscraper when you're standing next to it -- there just isn't much at PotzPlatz. There are the cinemas, of course, which are essential to the Berlinale, and the don't-call-it-a-mall-or-we-fire-you Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, and a few luxury hotels, which are also essential to the Berlinale -- or at least the egos who attend it. But the place has been a bust when it comes to commercial space. And why not? There's commercial space everywhere here, most of it cheaper than PotzPlatz.

Let's face it: the city's in trouble. At this point, even the city is admitting it. The link to the PotzPlatz article came after Kean sent me an almost unreadable exerpt from a speech due to be delivered in Sydney by Adrienne Goehler, identified as "a former senator for arts and science in Berlin." I have no idea which party she represents, and she could be a CDU-er sniping at the SDP's leadership, but if I discern (through what may be a lousy translation) correctly, she's right in scoring the unemployment (17% overall, but, as she doesn't mention, well over 33% is some parts of town), debt (€60 billion), and what she calls an "old-boy network" and I call entrenched anti-entrepreneurialism as problems.

So woo-woo, we have a lot of artists. Frau Goehler even admits that there's a lot of art made here but no way to sell it: for that you have to leave town. I'd actually advise her to take a look at what's in some of these galleries here. She might not be so optimistic if she'd take a walk around some of the galleries I see every day, too. And yeah, I know, there are a lot of artists who rent cheapo space here so they can build their stuff and ship it out without showing it here.

Ah, well. At least she admits "As impressive as the numbers are which officially document the strengthening of Berlin's creative industries, it is equally visible to the naked eye that there isn't and won't be enough paid work in this city to counter the jobless rate. For some years now, this shortage has forced mainly jobless artists and academics into new forms of working and living that arise from a lack of money and a simultaneous surplus of ideas." Which sort of doesn't make me feel too bad that nobody I know can make a living here, myself included.

But unlike Sony, I haven't made a sale or a merger that allows me to put my apartment back on the rental market. Yet.

11 comments:

MountPenguin said...

My mental index card on Adrienne Goehler says: belonged to the Greens and was Senator in the short-lived red/green coalition which followed the defenestration of the Diepgen/Landowsky regime. I almost collided with her at the Berlinale once. I think she said something offensively controversial about 9/11. That's all I know.

William Thirteen said...

Ed, back in fine form I see.
Oddly enough I know plenty of folks that make a living here - in fact i'm one of them! but last June's unemployment figures of 15.6% indicate that a sizable number of the population are still hanging around the arbeitsamt. that would be great if Potsdamer Platz went belly up though, we could start squatting in the glass towers, communicating with other tower tribes by means of pirate radio and strange semaphores, organizing raiding parties to attack other floors and snatch up hardware like characters out of Ballard novel....

kean said...

and there's more: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2185464,00.html

... x'mas comes early to those who wait ;)

William Thirteen said...

"Long-term residents of the city who cite high unemployment, empty coffers and smelly drains cannot understand the hype."
- think Kate Connolly has been reading BerlinBites?

Ed Ward said...

Dunno, but next time my toilet overflows, I'll call her to help me mop.

kean said...

on a more serious note though, following a seminar with several german and oecd economists explaining the apparent unsustainability of already-flagging german growth figures, berlin seems to be living in a (economic) fools' paradise - alas, them creative-types don't really create jobs, and cross-subsidies from the richer south/southwest parts of germany won't work forever. So maybe what berlin really needs to do is stoke the celeb-friendly fires, and get more of hollywood's a-list to buy up swathes of your mitte? real estate bubbles might be the answer ;)

William Thirteen said...

invading poland is a time honored option - and i wouldn't be surprised if Vladimir I might entertain a revised molotov-ribbentrop pact.

BiB said...

She used to be the Telegraph's woman in Berlin: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/foreign/kateconnolly/

Anyway, I don't want Berlin to only be the new New York AND the new Paris. I want it to be the new London and new Moscow too. How do I make it happen?

Karl-Marx-Straße said...

William writes "but last June's unemployment figures of 15.6% indicate that a sizable number of the population are still hanging around the arbeitsamt."

I'd argue nothing of the sort. Apart from the obligiatory statement that you should "never trust statistics you haven't falsified yourself", and the unemployment figures are definately falsified - they include no-one above 55, next to no-one under 25, no-one who's doing an "1-Euro-Job", suffering their way through an "ABM" or "employment training", whether paid or not, no-one long-term off work due to supposed illness or "early retirement", and no-one working part-time yet getting Arbeitslosengeld II... - my point is, is that a large proportion of Berlin's population are pensioners, students (if only nominally), or foreign/not part of the system. Many of the students work - but not as their "main activity", the pensioners don't work either, neither do those on various benefits. I've seen other figures that suggest that less than 50% of Berlin's population are employed OR "unemployed" - and it wouldn't surprise me if it was true. Otherwise I can't understand why the shops have to open so long...


And on Potzeplatz, don't forget that Ver.di fled the Ver.di-Haus shortly after getting their first Betriebskostennachzahlungsaufforderung, and the Bahn wanted to leave BahnTower for Hamburg, but had to stay for political reasons. Hopefully the Cinemaxx will go bankrupt at some point (and pass into workers' control, who only show stuff from the Arsenal archive over the road - who are also only still there thanks to some cash from the government, even though they can't afford to stay (and should have never really moved there in the first place...but it was another political decision))....

Karl-Marx-Straße said...

Also: I suspect the goings on at Alexa would suggest it to be a more likely scene for a Ballard novel (Kingdom Come) than only-full-of-tourists-and-god-only-knows-why Potsdamer Platz.

William Thirteen said...

gee KMS, if you want to actually use real numbers - that's a whole 'nother ball game! but indeed, i was wondering how the official figures were jerry rigged to provide the best profile for the politicians - saw a graphic in spiegel today that showed the amazing drop in unemployment in 2006 - just after the new laws were passed and the method of calculating the unemployment rate was revised... ain't math a beautiful thing....