Future of downtown Hamburg

International brands seeking prime locations in city centre as demand rises - Chamber of Commerce and senate to boost development
10 August 2021

Downtown Hamburg is set for a revamp based on a plethora of redevelopment ideas. The Chamber of Commerce’s “Hamburg 2040” concept would transform the city centre into an international sporting arena complete with a design market, festival atmosphere near the underground bridge at Rödingsmarkt while the vacant Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof building in Mönckebergstrasse may yet house an indoor market. Another plan foresees a “House of the Digital World or Digital Economy” with cutting edge technologies to attract especially young people to the city centre. Retailers and hotel operators also see business opportunities downtown in the wake of the pandemic as the crisis has led to several  new businesses.

Skywalks or hyperloops

Many online retailers see opportunities for linking up or expanding their business models with traditional trade, Philipp Hass, a retail expert with the property service provider, CBRE, told the daily Hamburger Abendblatt in July. "Thirty-three new commercial leases for properties in the city centre have been sealed in the past 18 months despite the pandemic," Hass pointed out.

The Chamber of Commerce has also set its sights on Lake Alster with proposals for e.g., a swimming pool, floating beach clubs on the Inner Lake Alster and the Fleet as well as a floating stage. The plans are reminiscent of the Bregenz Festival in Austria where dramas are staged on floating barges. So why not stage "Everyman" on Lake Alster? 

Spectacular skywalks or an urban cable may yet bridge the distance between the city centre and HafenCity. And the Chamber of Commerce is also taking its cue from other countries. "We must look far beyond our own horizons and consider barely imaginable means of transport such as self-driving buses or air taxis and not simply e-mobility and hydrogen-powered transport,” according to the concept. Dubai, for instance, is planning hyperloops and volocopters.

Bregenz Festival
© Bregenz Festival/Karl Forster
Floating stages at Bregenz Festival
Chamber of Commerce Hamburg
© Chamber of Commerce / Daniel Sumesgutner
Chamber of Commerce Hamburg

Investments in city centre

"The port and central Hamburg give the city its identity," politicians believe. The senate agreed on an EUR 29 million investment in June to spruce up the inner city and prepare it for the future. The sum is likely to increase to EUR 50 million by the end of the legislative period and should help raise the quality of stay and the standard of living there. The plans stand good chances of success, according to Dr Dorothee Stapelfeldt, Senator for Urban Development and Housing. "Our inner city is attractive and worth living in - but it is also changing. We need above all a growing, diverse mix of uses. We want more people to live in the city centre, and we need vibrant, attractive, well-connected public spaces."

Start-ups' innovative ideas changing city 

The city of the future is important to the broader community. To this end, Hamburg is co-operating with innovative start-ups worldwide and has launched the Future Hamburg Award. Who better to find solutions for an economically strong, liveable and sustainable city than young entrepreneurs? What will the port of the future look like? This year's award highlighted how AI, blockchain and IOT can be used sustainably and the smart port’s impact on people’s everyday lives. Read more about the winners on future.hamburg.

Economic recovery

Transforming city centres is a big issue elsewhere. Late in 2020, Peter Altmaier, Germany's Minister for Economics, held a virtual brainstorming session with representatives of companies, municipalities and associations to come up with creative solutions to the demise of stores and to revive city centres where the pandemic has exacerbated problems. Meanwhile, commerce and retailers continue to recover as restrictions ease. Companies plan to hire more staff, many new retailers are opening shops and more hotels are emerging. 


Hamburg among Germany's top hotel markets 

The Swiss hotel franchise SV Hotel has announced plans to open its "Hyatt Centric Hotel" and the "Stay KooooK" hotel in Hamburg’s Mönckebergstrasse. The new climate-neutral building will feature mixed use with hotels, retail and catering. Construction will start after the demolition of the present C&A building there. The new building will open in 2025. Commenting on the choice of Hamburg, Beat Kuhn, Managing Director of SV Hotel, said: "We are continuing our growth strategy in one of Germany’s most important and strongest hotel markets.” The hotels target both business and leisure travellers as wll as extended stay guests.  

Envisaged new hotel building in Mönckebergstrasee
© Sergison Bates Architects/Rethmeierschlaich Architekten
Envisaged new hotel building in Mönckebergstrasee

Hamburg attracting international brands 

More and international brands are opting for Hamburg. Japan’s Uniqlo opened a 1,750 square metre-store on over four floors in Hamburg’s Alter Wall last year. The Swedish sports fashion brand, Peak Performance, opened a flagship store on Bleichenbrücke in 2020 despite the pandemic. And the U.S. company, Anthropologie, based in Wayne, Pennsylvania, began offering a mix of clothing, accessories, gifts and home decorations this year on Alter Wall while the London-based cult "Doc Martens” shoe label is preparing to open its doors on Mönckebergstrasse. "None of the other major cities have such dynamic new openings," said Hass.