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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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    Metropolis Berlin: Grow beyond yourself

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    Berlin is buzzing. This weekend the city is showing that it can be a metropolis: tens of thousands are running one of the world’s most important marathons on the streets. And at the Olympic Stadium, the party crowd dances their legs up at the “Lollapalooza” festival.

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    After the autumn neighborhood festivals, Berlin is now out and about all over the city to discover the vastness within. Berlin has not let the tough years in the pandemic get you down. The economy continues to grow, even from the home office. And the capital is once again surpassing itself. Four million people will soon be living here.

    Berlin groans. There is a lack of affordable housing, plus 1,000 teachers, and Berlin’s administration remains entangled in the Bermuda bureaucracy between the Senate, districts and federal regulations. It’s getting narrower on crowded sidewalks and in S-Bahn trains that run on old tracks.

    A rumble, not just at the edges

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    So where should Berlin grow? Simply cementing over the area on the outskirts of the city makes no sense for the climate, nor for people. Berlin must move closer together in order to develop further. Does the city even want that?

    Berlin grumbles. No metropolis has so many citizen, neighborhood and popular initiatives. There is a lot of energy in them to change the city, to save its nature and its social permeability, to make life here more beautiful. In many initiatives, however, there is also the caveat that the boom is good at any price.

    A neighborhood in Mitte is fighting for a 200-year-old oak tree, which is to make way for an underground car park for six SUV parking spaces – so far in vain. The investor wants it that way. In the city, which is by no means rich, the overused “poor but sexy” argument no longer suffices.

    Purely symbolic traffic turnaround

    Berlin strolls. The indebted city has saved itself badly and now, in times of rising prices, hardly any reserves to invest in the future. Dilapidated schools are not renovated, the authorities are stuck in paper jams, the traffic turnaround gets stuck on symbolic bicycle lanes.

    Even the election was muddled – a disaster for the democratic polity. Politicians lack the courage and the administration lacks the people to remeasure the city as a whole. There is enough creativity and the will to change.

    Berlin is remodeling. A sustainable innovation district is being built at the former Tegel Airport, registering at the Citizens’ Registration Office is going digital, and pilot projects for a better urban climate are springing up everywhere. The big hit would actually be different: the redistribution of the space that Berlin spends on parking cars almost free of charge. Yes, Berlin can still become a cosmopolitan city.

    Worth living at four million?

    However, the conversion to a digital, climate-neutral metropolis will only succeed if the city grows differently than before – for its people; for living spaces with fresh air in dry summers, with social housing and hybrid work in lively neighborhoods and a connected surrounding area.

    Berlin skin clean. Now is the time to plan the city differently so that it remains liveable even with four million people: more social, more ecological, with investments in the infrastructure that everyone needs. In times of crisis in particular, it becomes clear that a city must first function well before it can grow dynamically.

    Berlin makes new. The city has a lust for itself, and not just on this metropolitan weekend. Now all Berlin needs is a desire to rethink itself.

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    Source: Tagesspiegel

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