Damn! They couldn’t even spell Kurfürstendamm

Tuesday, 28 August, 2012

Under the shade-giving plane trees, Berliners parade up and down the Kurfürstendamm, the city’s shopping boulevard. Along this avenue of materialism, consumers have the choice between Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Jil Sander, Gucci, Valentino, Cartier, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, to name the main outlets. But wait, there’s a deserted site between Uhlandstraße and Knesebeckstraße. What could it be? Why, it’s the Ku-damm Karree. Although this is prime Berlin retail location, the shoddy facade suggests that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. That something is called the Irish property boom.

Back in 2007, an Irish outfit called the Ballymore Group (slogan: “Eye for Detail”) bought this challenging space for more than €200 million, an outlandish price, given that there was no place for anchor tenants on the Kurfürstendamm street front, thanks to the presence of two historic theatres. But Ireland’s “developers” are a resourceful lot, as the destruction of Dublin’s Georgian heritage shows, so the Ballymore Group proposed obliterating the theatres. Protests followed and then fate intervened in the form of the financial crisis and many of Ballymore’s assets, including the Ku-damm Karree, were transferred to the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), the state body created in response to the bursting of the Irish property bubble. Fatefully, one year after NAMA’s establishment, the Irish government was compelled to seek an EU-IMF bailout.

Berlin spelling

The unfortunate Ku-damm Karree now belongs to the unfortunate Irish taxpayer, but with Germany the sole bright spot in the EU economy, an enterprising Russian or Chinese investor will surely snap up the site and return a profit for NAMA. One thing that needs to be done before than happens is to edit the page on the Ballymore website (slogan: “Eye for Detail”) where people can read about “the famous shopping boulevard — The Kurdurstendamm“. Once it has been spelled correctly to remove all possible ambiguity about Berlin and Kurdistan, all will surely be well with this “defining example of much needed urban fabric renewal”, as the property developer’s junk-speak puts it.

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