A cooperative takes over urban renewal in Berlin

July 12, 2017

Holzmarkt On 20th and 21st October the EUKN welcomed Holzmarkt to Amsterdam for our 2014 Annual Conference – ‘The Civic Economy: time to get ready’. Holzmarkt are a perfect example of the civic economy and area development in action. This unique and inspiring collaboration of neighbours and entrepreneurs demonstrates the potential when citizens decide to take matters into their own hands.

The collaborative neighbourhood

We are currently witnessing the rise of a new form of economy and social organisation throughout Europe and elsewhere which is broadly called the ‘civic economy’. A vast array of civic entrepreneurial initiatives have emerged due to developments, such as governmental retreat in civic duty, adversity to big business, distrust in the financial sector, the empowerment of citizens, technological innovation, and a rise of environmental and social consciousness. Holzmarkt – a creative village in the middle of Berlin – exemplifies these shifts in society and the economy.

How it began

Following the fall of the Berlin wall, a vacant space along the Spree River attracted developers wanting to build commercial and residential properties. In an attempt to preserve the green landscape as a free space for leisure and culture, local communities set up a cooperative and proposed an alternative plan. Thanks to a 2 million euro loan from a Swiss pension fund, the cooperative bought the land in the beginning of 2013 following a public competition announced by the local government.

The renaissance of a wooden market

The vision of the cooperative is to revive the old market Holzmarkt (literary wooden market) in harmony with nature. The only building along the river will be a restaurant offering local products. A village square will form the centre of the development. An important part of the village will be a Kidzclub for children to play. Various local entrepreneurs, such as designers, wine producers or craftsmen can use the place for their workshops. There will be function rooms on three floors which will serve as venues for festivals or different cultural events.

The civic economy at work

Since the opening in 2013, the new Holzmarkt project counts on local volunteers. Several festivals and cultural events as well as an urban garden and a market have already been held. Holzmarkt is a good example of the civic economy in operation. By means of exceptional organisational tactics, a sharing and collaborative approach to investment and technology, diverse change-makers tackled a pressing local and social challenge. The result was the development of a vacant place in a sustainable and beneficial way for the local community.

Originally published by the European Urban Knowledge Network on September 29, 2014

Carlo CapraBased in Milano, I currently work in real estate investments. Economist and Urban Manager by training, I worked the Urban Strategies and Planning department, of IHS developing connections with a wide range of initiatives in the city of Rotterdam and supporting IHS research and education activities. I also worked for the European Urban Knowledge Network (EUKN), in research and communication activities. Previously, I was researcher for UN-ECLAC in Chile.

My areas of interest and expertise are urban economic development, innovative finance and social innovation.

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