Chausseestraße: Seen for many years as the forgotten street in the freshly renovated district of Mitte, it too will soon shine in new splendor thanks to numerous prestigious new build projects. In the northern part in particular, sophisticated new properties have given the address a real upgrade.
Mitte's ‘poor relative' lies between Friedrichstraße and Müllerstraße. While to the south, Friedrichstraße exudes the international flair of the heart of a global capital and Müllerstraße beckons with its multicultural charm to the north, Chausseestraße was for many years one thing only - gray. The streetscape was dominated by crumbling building façades, empty sites overgrown with weeds and the gaping stretch of barren land at the site where the Stadium der Weltjugend (lit. Stadium of the World's Youth), the venue of countless sporting events, stood until 1992. Wind blew sand into the eyes of pedestrians, while the traffic thundering past sprayed dirty water on their shoes - hardly the place to enjoy a leisurely stroll!
Now, though, Chausseestraße is being given a makeover, with renovation, restoration and construction work underway at every corner, bringing a new lease of life to the oldest street in ‘Oranienburger Vorstadt'.
This street, built in around 1800 to connect Berlin and Tegel, was a highlight at an early stage in its existence. In 1861, for instance, it was the only street north of Oranienburger Tor to boast a cobblestoned surface, while in the 1950s, this was the place where the party officials of the GDR celebrated after the end of the war, with ‘peace races' and party rallies, at least until the Berlin Wall was built. Later, the area basked in the reflected glow of the Stadion der Weltjugend, a 70,000-capacity stadium that hosted international football matches and other major sporting events.
It was only after reunification that this 1.7 kilometer stretch of street fell into oblivion. The sports stadium was demolished and major political events had long found other venues. This all changed with a spectacular site selection that heralded a turn for the better. In 2006, the Federal Intelligence Service, (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) bought the large wasteland area where the stadium once stood and began building its new headquarters. This set the cornerstone for the transformation of this hitherto dreary street, with the new administrative headquarters bringing entirely new prospects to the area. From 2016, 4,000 officials are set to work here; they also need somewhere to live, preferably close by.
And so, over the last few years, the façades of the period buildings have been restored. Their new beauty is already apparent at the southern end of the street, where Chausseestrasse leads out from Friedrichstraße. A neo-baroque residential and commercial building built in around 1890 forms an imposing opening to the street, with a plaque commemorating entrepreneur August Borsig. In the 19th century, a portico corridor led the way to the site of his first machine construction plant. Today, the period building has been restored, the plaster now a sandy shade, lighter in some places, darker elsewhere, with gold-edged stucco above the windows. Inside, luxury interior design label Bolia displays its unique furniture. Just opposite, at number 131, was the place singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann called home during the GDR-era, before his expatriation. He even named an album after the address. All of the songs for "Chausseestrasse 131" were recorded here in his apartment, the rumbling of the trams audible in the background.
Nowadays, the tram glides along the Chausseestrasse considerably more quietly and slightly further north, at the intersection with Invalidenstrasse. For several years, the intersection at the Natural History Museum was a bottleneck due to construction work, but today the builders have moved elsewhere. The road layout, tram stops, plasterwork - today, everything is completely new, including the building façades.
Invalidenstrasse divides Chausseestrasse into its characteristic two halves. While the residential buildings located between Torstraße and Invalidenstrasse will be renovated and restored, the main work in the northern part will be to fill the vacant lots. With its proximity to the royal iron foundry in Invalidenstrasse, many metal industry operations settled here in the 19th and early 20th century, their forges and smoking chimneys earning the area the nickname ‘Feuerland' (‘Land of Fire'). Many of the plants were destroyed during the war, and others abandoned in the post-war era, leaving the plots to fall barren and become overgrown.
It is precisely this part of the Chausseestrasse that the investors are currently reviving. Where once the chimney stacks smoked, today, prestigious and sophisticated buildings with international sounding names are being built. They go by names like "Living 108", "The Garden Living" or "The Mile" and come with a promise of urbane, modern city living. Even star architect Daniel Libeskind is building a residential property in Chausseestrasse. His project, "Sapphire", is currently under construction at number 43.
The residential ensemble "The Mile" is set to be completed next year. Then, Chausseestrasse 37, where the factories and workshops once stood, will entice new residents with 260 luxuriously appointed apartments, complete with balcony or terrace. Beautifully designed courtyards connect the four to seven-storey buildings, with north-south orientation ensuring apartments that are flooded with daylight. The new residential complex in Chausseestraße 57-60, north of Wöhlertstraße, will also be ready for occupancy in 2016. There will be hidden gardens, small playgrounds and plenty of greenery between the buildings.
The backyards of "Living 108" are also lush and green. The residential complex at Chausseestrasse 108, where the vacant lot stretched all the way back to the side wing of the Natural History Museum, was completed at the beginning of 2015. Its glistening glass and gold façade shines over the street, while to the rear, idyllic landscaped gardens provide a space for rest and relaxation that is the perfect antidote to hectic city life. Open-plan floor designs and generous window fronts mean residents can enjoy plenty of space to breathe. The 128 apartments also come with their own fitness area and a communal rooftop terrace with fantastic views over the hustle and bustle of the street below - a street that has its best times still ahead of it.