The Mall Of Berlin, A Whole New Concept For Urban Consumers

Malls, not walls, in Germany's capital, but can it compete with the Internet?

Computer-generated model of the Mall of Berlin
Norbert Schwaldt

BERLIN — Fashion outlets, a chain bookshop, drugstores, bakeries, fast food joints: Shopping centers in Germany are all pretty similar, inside and out. Most of these temples of consumerism have also aged, and are in urgent need of a facelift.

Even as the economy evolves, and part of it moves online, the goal is still the same: to fuel a desire to buy. The trend in Germany has been to move malls and outlets into downtown, like the Skyline Plaza and MyZeil in Frankfurt/Main, in an attempt to target wealthy city dwellers. Still, most feature similar mixes of leaseholders and mainly sell uniform mass-produced goods.

Berlin, however, is the exception. The new Mall of Berlin is set to open this fall, and it will be a shopping center that doesn't look like one.

Instead, it's really a business quarter, a city within a city, built in and among old structures and demolished buildings in an expanse between Friedrichstrasse and Potsdamer Platz. In a first phase there will be 270 shops and 30 restaurants on 76,000 square meters (818,057 square feet), plus a hotel on 12,000 square meters (129,167 square feet) along with offices and 250 luxurious apartments in a prime location.

In a second phase to be completed next year, another 50 shops are planned. This is only possible in Berlin where, because of the war and the post-war division of the city, there is still enough land for new construction.

And only in Berlin does such an investment make sense. The city is becoming a metropolis with a growing population and an expanding stream of tourists. The area of the city known as Berlin-Mitte is a popular destination for shopping and cultural opportunities for residents and tourists alike, and there will soon be a new stop on the itinerary: The Mall of Berlin located on historical ground, the old death strip of the Berlin Wall.

Developer Harald Huth is, according to his company's figures, shelling out one billion euros to build the center.

Arab money, American look

Huth and his High Gain House Investments (HGHI) have already built the "Gropius Passagen" shopping center in Berlin-Neukölln and "Das Schloss" (The Castle) in Steglitz — the one sober and business-like, the other elegant. He plans two further shopping complexes in Berlin.

Huth's co-investor in the Mall of Berlin is Arab Investments, in for 30%. Huth has collaborated on other projects with Arab Investments.

Andreas Kogge, a trade expert at real estate consulting firm JLL says we shouldn't think of the Mall of Berlin as a shopping center. "We're talking about the complete rebuild of an inner city neighborhood," he says. "Because of its sheer size, the project is unique in Europe. What's also unique is that a developer undertook such a massive project alone."

Work in progess — Photo: Mall of Berlin Facebook page

Kogge notes that many of the leaseholders would never take space in a shopping center — companies such as fashion firms Armani, Liu Jo, Wormland or Hollister. Peek & Cloppenburg department store has leased 8,000 square meters of space.

But Stephan Jung, chairman of the trade association German Council of Shopping Centers, notes the real challenge. "Customers can reach the biggest shopping mall in the world via Apple and Samsung. It's open 24/7 and is located in their jacket pocket or handbag," he quips. "This doesn't bring enough innovation to this bright, creative, fast world, nor does it sufficiently use all the possible channels."

Neither producers nor retailers have given enough attention to the immense increase in single-person households and the fact that women manage 65% of global consumer spending, Jung adds.

But Kogge says there is still space for the right mix of bricks and mortar. "We don't need more quantity, we need more quality," says the JLL trade expert. "The Internet has given consumers a whole other set of expectations and they're much better informed. New shopping galleries also have to offer more entertainment, and follow the Asian and American example of having larger food courts."

The Berlin Mall nonetheless continues the trend of building centers in the inner city, says trade expert Marco Atzenberger.

And since new spaces are rare, developers tend to go for former department stores that they then restructure. The results are significantly smaller shopping centers. In 2000, an average center had a total surface of some 33,000 square meters, but that's now down to 31,400 square meters.

Indeed, the centers themselves must also be about quality, not quantity. And as developer Harald Huth has shown, future shopping centers may no longer even be called shopping centers.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.


"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."


Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

➡️


$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.


It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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