To ground urban studies in a greater diversity of urban experiences—not only by studying cities at the world’s “periphery” but also by studying the quieter places and processes at the periphery of our dominant reading of the richest global cities—we want to understand the conflicting narratives driving change in two local shopping streets in two disadvantaged neighborhoods of former West Berlin: Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln and Müllerstraße in Wedding.
Both streets are ordinary and unspectacular. They lie at the social periphery of the new Berlin. Those looking for the quaint stores of olden times, like the butcher and the corset shop, where locals mingle and chat, will be disappointed. Gambling and betting parlors, cheap barber shops or one-Euro coffee shops have increasingly become the social space for interaction and passing time.
A narrative of decay structures the discourse on both streets. In Müllerstraße, this narrative encompasses both the street itself and the surrounding area. Karl-Marx-Straße is still seen as in a downward spiral, while
the streets surrounding it are dominated by a narrative of gentrification. Diagnosed as difficult areas, yet playing a central role in the district, both streets were assigned the status of Sanierungsgebiet (regeneration area) in 2011, which entails an imperative of change as well as funding and new governmental structures to facilitate this change.
Christine Hentschel and Talja Blokland
The New York Times thinks one of our local shopping streets in Berlin is being gentrified: