Once the gateway to West Berlin, the area around Zoo Station suffered decline and neglect after the fall of the Wall. Now international and German investors are rediscovering the Cold War city center.
Handelsblatt Global, September 26, 2014
It is early afternoon and police officers are shaking the shoulder of a man sleeping rough under the bridge next to Berlin’s Zoo Station. He is wrapped in a blanket, nestled beneath scaffolding in this murky underpass often frequented by drunks and junkies. A few feet away two young men in designer T-shirts and sunglasses sip coffee outside a new corner café.
The juxtaposition reveals how much the area is changing around the iconic station, formerly the main transport hub of the old West Berlin. While it had fallen into decline after the fall of the Berlin Wall it is now undergoing something of a rebirth.
Ambitious new construction projects are transforming the urban landscape here. Entrepreneurs are building luxury hotels, concept malls, office space and residential blocks, making it one of Berlin’s newest real estate hotspots.
Zoo Station has an iconic place in Berlin history. It is named after the oldest zoo in Germany, next to which it first opened in 1882. During the Cold War it was the first point of arrival for many entering the cut-off Western enclave. One of the first things they would see is the bombed out steeple of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a reminder of the brutal war the Nazis thrust on Europe. On the other side of the square the Kufürstendamm, the prime shopping boulevard, was the showcase of capitalism in the divided city.