Christian Wegerhoff is standing on the roof terrace of his steel and glass office building looking down on houses covered with graffiti and a huge construction site. “This is what I call Berlin glamour,” he says. But the CEO of internet company Mediaworx says that his quarter is unlikely to keep its shabby chic look much longer. “This is going to look like Hackescher Markt in five or six years,” he says referring to the fashionable heart of the Mitte neighbourhood. “The tourists will come, the hotels – and the offices.”
Mediaworx’ team of 80 staff is based on three floors of a renovated former factory called Edisonhöfe in the middle of what Berliners now refer to as NoTo (“North of Torstrasse”). It’s a part of town in the former east that few visitors know about – and where locals are trying to snap up an apartment or office space.
NoTo is walking distance from landmarks such as Oranienburger Strasse and Hackescher Markt but is divided from those areas by a main street, Torstrasse, that serves as a border that holds back the hordes of tourists who populate the rest of Mitte. NoTo with its beautiful, treelined streets – such as Schröderstrasse, Ackerstrasse and Bergstrasse – full of old buildings is quiet in contrast.there are few restaurants, almost no bars and only a handful of shops.
However, Deutsche Bahn has just erected a 37,000 sq m office block on a green-space near Nordbahnhof, the quarter’s underground station, with room for 1,450 employees. NoTo’s old supermarket is being demolished in favour of Quartier 100 – slick apartments and shops. Clever investors should soon fill the retail spaces with delicatessens, cafés and organic bakers.
Nicolas Jeissing, Berlin CEO of estate agents Engel&Völkers, says the quarter is a great place to buy property now. For him NoTo’s allure is “the interesting mix of culture, ad agencies, lawyers, fashion, and internet companies. “And the trend is still upwards for this area,” he says. Iris Schmied saw this coming when she opened Alpenstück, the first smart restaurant in Schröderstrasse, early in 2007. “This is no place for walk-in customers,” she says, preparing a coffee for a visitor at the bar. “You have to know that we are here.”
Now her place is packed every night. Schmied has a staff of 30, recently opened a bakery opposite her restaurant and is now selling her own furniture line from her office next door.
01: NoTo runs alongside the former Berlin Wall. A memorial centre at Bernauer Strasse reminds visitors of this.
02: Edison-Höfe, now housing hi-tech companies such as Mediaworx and Nokia, is the place where German industrial giant AEG was founded in 1884.
03: The Panke, a subterranean river, runs under the entire quarter.
04: It takes five minutes by bus to Berlin central station (where from next year you will be able to get trains to the new city airport). NoTo is well connected.
05: For years in a kind of Schnitzel-war has been raging in Berlin. Locals furiously debate over whether the best one is served in restaurants Borchardt, Austria – or NoTo’s Alpenstück.