Google sought permission to use a historical building in Kreuzberg for its Campus Berlin tech hub but a councillor told a local newspaper over the weekend that planning permission has been denied.
Green Party councillor Julian Schwarze reportedly told the Neues Deutschland newspaper that the project was rejected because of noise concerns from local residents and because “the planned installation of an additional story in the historical building would also exceed the designated floor-area size for the district.”
The Campus Berlin tech hub, which Google wants to put in a former substation at Ohlauer Straße, was announced last November and it was due to open this Autumn. That date could now be pushed back.
Anti-gentrification campaigners in Kreuzberg are concerned about the impact that a Google Campus would have on housing costs in the trendy area, where rents have surged over the last few years as tech companies have clustered.
“When large tech companies settle in, the areas change a lot — the rents get very expensive, the retail spaces get very expensive,” Coni Pfeiffer of the local initiative “Glorreiche” told DW. “In principle the complete area that was there before simply gets replaced by other people and other businesses.”
“We don’t want that,” said Pfeiffer, who lives near the building Google has selected. “We’ve lived in Kreuzberg a long time and made it into what it is, after all. And now Google is coming along and using that as some kind of stage set for something we don’t even understand. The company’s slogan is ‘do the right thing’ — let’s see them do it.”
At the time of the announcement, the search giant said Berlin’s startup scene has grown rapidly over the last five years to become one of Europe’s leading ecosystems.
“We are firmly convinced that the future holds more growth potential for entrepreneurs and we want to contribute our part,” said Mary Grove, director of Google for Entrepreneurs and Campus, in a blog post. “Our goal for Campus Berlin is to support the existing startup ecosystem even more and to promote entrepreneurship.”
Google already has six Campus buildings in cities around the world, with the others in London, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Warsaw, Sao Paulo, and Madrid.
The Campus spaces are designed to help entrepreneurs to form and build their businesses alongside other founders that are doing the same thing. Google claims that startups in its Campuses have raised over €260 million (£220 million) and created more than 4,600 new jobs.
“We ourselves began in a garage nearly two decades ago and today we celebrate our entrepreneurial roots,” Google writes on the Campus website. “Google for Entrepreneurs partners with startup communities and builds Campuses where entrepreneurs can learn, connect, and create companies that will change the world.
“Since 2011, we’ve launched Campuses and formed partnerships that support entrepreneurs across 125 countries.”
A spokesperson for Google reportedly told DW: “We are excited to house Campus Berlin in the [substation]. As with every rebuilding of historical sites there are tasks that we solve together with the authorities. We build out our space for local community and local entrepreneurs, and are thus working closely with the city to not only preserve, but highlight, the historic features of the building.”
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