Shadow of the Wall Remains Visible in Still-Divided Berlin

The no man's land once occupied by the Berlin Wall has been the focus of redevelopment efforts for nearly two and a half decades now. But the slow pace of rebuilding means the scars of the Cold War remain visible across the city's landscape.
September 10, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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William Boston looks at the slow pace at which the gulf between Berlin's two halves is being repaired. "It is taking much longer to fill in the open spaces left by the division of the city than many experts and city planners once expected," observes Boston. "The rebuilding of Berlin, the main driver of property investment in the city, is far from over. It may not even be half-time, property experts say, which makes Berlin a huge exception among European capitals." 

Despite Germany's strong economy, the room for redevelopment has allowed commercial rents in the city to remain well below Europe's other capitals.  

"That means not only will the Berlin building boom likely keep chugging along for years, but there is little reason to expect a squeeze on supply to put pressure on prices as long as there is ample space to build new offices, hotels and shopping centers in the shadow of the Wall in central Berlin."

In some areas, however, the lack of large-scale rebuilding is not for lack of trying on the part of developers. 

"The removal of the Wall created new open spaces for citizens in a city that had grown used to being, well, walled in. In some cases, local citizens have successfully blocked or delayed development of stretches of the former death strip in order to preserve that open space for public use."

Thanks to Daniel Lippman

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Published on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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