Offenbach: The construction boom is changing social mix

  • fromFabian Scheuermann

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Frankfurt and Offenbach grow towards each other, connecting neighborhoods are created. For some normal earners, living space is too expensive.

Offenbach and Frankfurt are getting closer. This can be observed well at the Kaiserlei: Where a large roundabout under the freeway between 66 a few years ago was used to handle 66,000 cars a day between hardware stores, office wings and fallow land, the construction of new entrances and exits currently creates a lot of space for new things : Five high-rise buildings, a number of office blocks, several hotels, hundreds of micro-apartments and a new park are planned around the traffic junction on Offenbach district or are already growing there. The buildings towards Frankfurt are becoming denser. And it advances precisely to the city limits.

Also in Frankfurt, after the development of the Deutschherrnviertel on the Sachsenhausen slaughterhouse area in the 90s, further desires arose to expand the city towards Offenbach. While Frankfurt north of the Main along Hanauer Landstraße has been increasingly urban and denser for years, a new building for the European School on the Mainwasen sports grounds is under discussion south of the river. The Frankfurt architect Karl Richter recently proposed that a large part of the area between Sachsenhausen and Kaiserlei, occupied by sports fields and allotments, be built on with apartments. Richter estimates that 3000 people could live there. And a little further on, the construction of a multifunctional arena on the Kaiserleipromenade, which opened in 2018 and Frankfurt meets Offenbach at its curb.

But this – like the new buildings for the city stages proposed for the other side of the Main – is still a dream of the future. The plans are much more specific there a few kilometers east on the Offenbach port area. Instead of the old oil port, a residential, business and cultural quarter has emerged there in recent years, which continues to grow towards Frankfurt year after year – around 1600 people were already living there at the turn of the year.

One of the largest projects at Offenbach Harbor is an ensemble of office and hotel towers and shops on the tip of the peninsula between the Main and the harbor basin. The project, which is also advertised with a view of the Frankfurt skyline, is currently being marketed. The city plans to create a “dune park” around the towers from autumn. Another office tower is planned at the port square further east. And near the Kaiserlei S-Bahn station, the Berlin CG Group is currently transforming the two aging Siemens office towers into the “New Frankfurt Towers”: Including new buildings are being built on the 3.5 hectare “Kampus Kaiserlei” 840 Micro apartments and apartments, offices, shops and restaurants, a fitness club with swimming pool, a daycare center and a hotel. The large construction site is easy to see from some of Frankfurt’s main bridges.

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Many people, especially younger people, have long felt that Offenbach and Frankfurt are one city – at least as a common urban space. No wonder, since the S-Bahn takes you from one city center to the other in ten minutes. A student who studies at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and lives in Offenbach says that she enjoys spending her free time on Berger Strasse in Frankfurt as much as in Offenbach’s cultural center Hafen 2. Nico C. – a youngster – is much better off traveling in Frankfurt Man who works at the airport and moved to a micro apartment in Offenbacher Hafenplatz in 2017. The building in which he lives is advertised as the “Main Atrium Frankfurt-Offenbach”: on the roof you can play basketball with a skyline view, there is an “event kitchen” and a “workout spot”. All of this comes at a price. There, 21 square meters of living space cost 385 euros per month – more than 18 euros warm per square meter.

The example shows that Frankfurt and Offenbach have long been converging in terms of rents. Or better said: Offenbach is catching up – in a negative sense. According to a study by the Immowelt portal, rents there for new leases between 2009 and 2019 rose from an average rent of € 7.30 per square meter to € 10.10 – an increase of 38 percent. Rents rose even more in Frankfurt.

The development is similar for apartment and house prices. You can see that at the “Maison Schiller”: an apartment building with 15 apartments, which is being built in a back yard at the Kaiserlei. The investor advertises “exclusive living at the interface to Frankfurt”. A two-room apartment with 72 square meters costs 439,999 euros there – a price that would have been unthinkable in this situation a few years ago.

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While the rental apartments in Offenbach’s trendy neighborhoods continue to be cheap from a Frankfurt perspective, some Offenbach residents can no longer afford to rent there. The left-wing faction in the city parliament has therefore recently called for the protection of the milieu to be enacted for the popular Offenbach Nordend in order to prevent luxury renovations and the displacement of poorer people. However, the proposal was not approved. Oliver Stirböck of the Offenbach FDP, which forms a coalition with the CDU, Greens and Free Voters, said that he “could not see any disadvantage in upgrading the area”. District manager Marcus Schenk, on the other hand, hopes that “the Offenbach Nordend will not become the Frankfurt Nordend”.

With the boom, Offenbach’s social mix is ​​also changing. Middle class people who are no longer able to pay for a 3 or 4-room apartment in Frankfurt are looking in the neighboring town. Local politics has promoted this for years. One wishes for a “good mix” say representatives of almost all factions in the city.

It also happened that not a single social apartment was built at the port. The difference between the new quarter and the neighboring Nordend, where a lot is being built, is clear. This is shown by the statistics: while the proportion of foreigners in the north end is 50 percent, it is 24 percent in the port – a very low value for a district of Offenbach, which can probably be explained by the fact that many poorer migrants cannot afford the new quarter. At Hafenplatz, the proximity of the milieus leads to conflicts again and again, especially on summer evenings: Then the young people push out of the narrow apartments of their families in the north end on the stair-like square. There is the skyline view and fresh air from the Main for free. Some new residents react annoyed – and calls the regulatory office for disturbance of the peace.

In many ways, Frankfurt and Offenbach are still very different. The unemployment rate in Offenbach was 8.7 percent in February – in Frankfurt it was 5.3. The differences in money are also clear: In Offenbach, disposable income per person in 2016 was EUR 17,687. This value is a purely statistical figure, since, for example, small children have no income – but it is always good for comparison. And lo and behold: the income value in Frankfurt in the same period was 21,690 euros. In addition, the cities have extremely different incomes: Although only around five times as many people live in Frankfurt as in Offenbach – the city earns 34 times more than the neighboring city through trade tax: in 2019 it was 2.014 billion euros. In Offenbach: 60 million.

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“We also have to develop office space there because of affordable housing,” says Offenbach’s Mayor Felix Schwenke (SPD) when asked why almost all of the Kaiserlei’s businesses arise despite the housing shortage. If trade tax bubbles again in the former industrial city of Offenbach, which was hit by structural change, the idea is that the city can again afford to build affordable apartments. These are currently being built by the state-owned Nassauische homestead – but hardly by the municipal housing association GBO.

Offenbach’s image promoted as a hip creative location in recent years should also help to ensure that more money flows into the city’s treasury. For example, several Frankfurt companies have recently decided to move to Offenbach: Last year, for example, the Kastner agency, which, among other things, was responsible for the advertising concept for the energy drink “Red Bull”. And in 2017 the Levi’s Germany headquarters with around 60 employees moved from Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel to a former industrial hall in Offenbach’s Nordend.

Offenbach is planning a “design park” with the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG), which will receive a new building at the port. It doesn’t have to be a place – the concept is primarily to be understood as strengthening the local creative infrastructure. If you meet design professor Frank Zebner, who heads the project, you will notice a city map without a city name in his documents: It shows Frankfurt’s east and Offenbach’s west: The Frankfurt part, between the ECB and Ratswegkreisel, is called “Eastside” there. “Offenbacher district” says “Design Park”. The cities look like a single metropolis on the map. This idea is no longer so absurd.

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