After dividing into smaller groups, to tackle this city more efficiently, we met up with Cordelia Polinna from Think Berlin. We stopped at Suppengroen for a quick, delicious vegetarian lunch, and then headed to the Spreefeld project.

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The Spree is a very interesting collaborative project, essentially a cooperative building for mixed uses. They have dedicated their ground level as public and semi-public space, and all the residents help fund the ground floor–both the building and programming.  Maybe on our next trip to Berlin, we’ll see the finished product!

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Our next stop was the Markthalle. This old market hall, built in the 1890s, was left abandoned and finally restored a couple years ago. An initiative among the locals kept the market just that way: local. Now it is filled with produce stands and local vendors, like bakers and chefs. They also hold weekend events and it’s a very lively atmosphere.

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Continuing on our walking tour, our next stop was the Karl-Marx-Strasse in the heart of Neukolln. We were going to see the Klunkerkranich project, but we first had to find the shopping mall. Klunker was at the top of it.

How could we miss it? It was quite massive, and terribly out of place on this rather local commercial street. Cordelia explained to us that the street has always been problematic for commercial uses: lots of vacancy, no charm, lots of traffic. The super-sized mall was supposed to be a miracle solution and would bring new people into the area. It didn’t. Moreover, one of the greatest resources, especially for the surrounding lower-income community, was hidden away on the 3rd floor of the mall: the public library. You can barely see the vertically-oriented sign that reads “Bibliotheck” in small letters. Not surprisingly, the library is largely underused.

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Despite the downsides, the real treat was the top floor of this massive mall. You exit the elevator, thinking you’re still in a parking garage, walk around the corner and up the ramp, and then you reach the small paradise of the Klunkerkranich and Farbfelder projects. A community project completed by a group of about 500 people and about €100.000, it is an urban farm, music venue, and cafe/bar. We spoke with the founder, a young guy wearing baggy pants,  a hoodie, and long dreads. He was very casual about the project–“we just asked the mall, who asked the parking garage company, who asked the real estate company and then got together about 500 people and built it.” The main challenge has been the contract with the real estate company.  A one-year contract makes it a difficult decision to invest in things like proper irrigation for the farm. But they are taking things one step at a time.

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