Development project adds to reshaping of East Berlin

9th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

But the drastic change the project has caused to the city's landscape has also aroused fierce protest.

Berlin -- A major development project designed to reshape a part of East Berlin along the banks of the River Spree moves a tiny step closer to completion this week.

The site cuts through three of Berlin's twelve districts and crosses the border which formerly divided the city into East and West. Projects already realized under the Mediaspree label include futuristic office high rises as well as redeveloped industrial sites.

But the drastic change the project has caused to the city's landscape has also aroused fierce protest.

One objection is to a large multi-purpose arena accommodating up to 17,000 visitors, which opens on Wednesday after two years of construction.

With its bright blue roof and large LED screen catching the eye from afar, O2 World sticks out in an area of what is still a largely undeveloped post-industrial wasteland.

The venue and the surrounding 24 hectare-compound is owned by US event company Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Critics maintain the arena destroys the character of the district and said they would stage a protest at the official opening. Local pressure groups have been lobbying to keep the Spree river banks free from private real estate developments.

Together with its sponsor, mobile phone operator O2, Anschutz plans to celebrate the completion of the 165 million-euro (235 million dollars) with an impressive star line up. Metallica, Coldplay and German singer Herbert Groenemeyer will be performing in the coming week.

The flashy building has met with praise as well as criticism.

It is an important development engine for the entire district," says Frank Schulz, mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where the arena is located.

The Anschutz project will attract other investors." It has also had a direct effect on the ailing local labor market, providing about 900 jobs, Schulz added.


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