Weberwiese –

Milieu sind wir! ... a neighbourhood initiative in a listed building complex in the social conservation area Weberwiese in Berlin-Friedrichshain, located between Warschauer Straße, Frankfurter Tor and Ostbahnhof. Our complex comprises 35 buildings with a total of around 500 flats, it's a home for hundreds of tenants, some of them already living here since 1954, when the ensemble was built.

Between 2012 and 2015, the buildings have been successively divided into condos. One year later, in August 2016, the social conservation area came into effect - too late to stop the sellout: As part of a share deal, the flats became property of White Tulip GmbH (part of the investment company PineBridge Investments, and managed by Residea Immobilien Management GmbH) who started selling the condos internationally under the monicker 54East.

After nothing had been done about our crumbling facades and dilapidated window frames in the 30 years since the fall of communism, half of the facades, ornaments, staircases and gardens have now been restored to meet the regulations of the heritage listing. However, this obviously only serves to improve the marketing of the flats, while the needs and problems of the existing tenants are not taken into account at all. In quite a few buildings, electric installations and bathrooms remain desolate, crumbling window frames are not being renewed.

The ensemble now resembles a Swiss cheese: in many buildings, individual flats have already been sold, while several other flats are being monetised by converting them into furnished apartments or dorms through third-party companies such as Orbis, Wunderflats, NM Co-Living GmbH, Stellar Living (part of Residea Development GmbH). At the same time, there were also many vacancies, while in other buildings individual empty flats are getting renovated in order to be sold.

Current situation

Our property management company Residea is currently commissioning an external company, Prints Immobilien, in order to approach many tenants, suggesting they could buy their own apartment, or move out against a compensation payment. However, very few tenants are willing to become a house owner, even fewer have the financial means to be able to agree to these kinds of offers, and considering the dwindling chances of finding a new place to live in Berlin today, the compensation also won't help.

After 50% of the buildings got recently refurbished in accordance with the preservation order, at some point this construction work stopped, the scaffoldings disappeared and 17 buildings remained unrenovated. One block of six buildings that has not been touched ever since they were built in 1954.



Social housing

Our ensemble was designed in 1954 according to the model of the architect Rudolf Weise and is of special urban-historical and social significance in the context of the development of Karl-Marx-Allee. After the end of the second world war, it was part of the first integrated new development area in East Berlin. The original purpose at the time was to offer good housing standards for little money.

Nowadays, the social structure in our neighbourhood is still very diverse, but the vast majority of inhabitants is still dependent on affordable rents. After the German reunification, our housing complex was transferred into the property of WBF (now WBM). While a smaller part of the original ensemble (at the corner of Marchlewski / Wedekindstraße, opposite Police Headquarters 5) remained in the hands of WBF, the majority was sold for the first time in 1998 to a private investor - the Duisburg based IBC - which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. The ensemble was then temporarily managed by a liquidator on behalf of the German government. It was not until 2006 that another sale took place to the city's well-known investor Tækker. In 2017, the property was again transferred - this time through a share deal - to its current owner White Tulip.

Social responsibility

Considering the extremely lack of social and affordable housing in Berlin, here and now is an opportunity for the state of Berlin and the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg to preserve affordable housing in the Milieuschutz area, which has already existed since 2016, and to fulfil its social responsibility towards us, the existing tenants. The social structure of our buildings is extremely mixed - students from all over the world live next door to families and first-time tenants - and should definitely be protected from speculative sale and purely profit-oriented exploitation strategies. Originally designed for the working class, the ensemble is part of Berlin's iconic cityscape and a backdrop for films like "The Lives of Others" or the series "Weissensee" - some of the people whose lives in the former GDR are depicted there still live in these houses.

Our concern is to stand up for the preservation of our home and ancestral neighbourhood and to save the houses we live in from being sold off. It is impossible for us to do this alone, but we are dependent on the help of politicians and the public sector. That is why we are looking for ways and means to find a common solution with the help of public financing models and in dialogue with the owners, which also serves the common good.

Disclaimer: We do not claim the accuracy and completeness of the data mentioned here.