HafenCity - great location for smaller businesses

As well as the large corporate headquarters, HafenCity’s atmosphere will be influenced in future by plenty of smaller companies that are creative and innovative. Many have already moved into this new part of town

The photo shows Grasbrook harbor and Dalmannkai promenade

HafenCity is a city district that impresses both clients and co-workers, who fall for its maritime, yet urban atmosphere (© ELBE&FLUT) Start slideshow

It’s often the big names that hit the headlines when the media talk about HafenCity as a new corporate location - as when consumer goods giant Unilever moved into new headquarters on Strandkai for its German-speaking markets in summer 2009.  In 2010 Germanischer Lloyd will follow suit on Brooktorkai, 2011 the Spiegel group on Ericusspitze: in each of the three cases, the companies are or will be bringing more than a thousand employees with them into HafenCity. Here companies can have premises built of  30,000 sq. m gross floor area or more in an area that is both attractive and central. Corporate headquarters like these are also opening up their buildings to the surrounding district, incorporating public walkways, shops and places to eat and drink into their ground floor areas.

But many smaller firms are way ahead, having opened for business in the new district long ago. More than 200 companies are already at work in HafenCity. A survey carried out by HafenCity GmbH in autumn 2008 showed that 69 per cent of the 191 companies contacted employed fewer than 50 people.

One of the pioneers is Hahlbrock & Cie Personalberatung KG, which moved into Grosser Grasbrook with its five employees in mid-2005. Only SAP and Pantaenius have been established in HafenCity for longer. At that time, the Magellan Terraces were gradually taking shape; Dalmannkai was still just open spaces and building sites. "Even so, I didn’t hesitate for a moment when it came to choosing a location," says Uwe Hahlbrock. He has never regretted his decision either. Because "everything has turned out exactly the way I expected it to," explains the entrepreneur and founder. "There are great places to eat around here and, in the meantime, the infrastructure has developed really well. What’s more, having this address really enhances our image," Hahlbrock says. Now he even lives on Kaiserkai with his family.

His company can be regarded as typical in the structure of this west HafenCity location. In addition to companies connected with construction (their share of 19% is not surprising, in view of the number of HafenCity building sites), many modern services businesses have moved in. Other sectors playing a significant role are media and logistics (17% each), followed by trading (9%), financial services (6%), IT services (5%) and management consultancies (5%), such as Molthan van Loon Communications Consultants GmbH.

"The way that tradition and innovation blend together here is exactly in line with our corporate philosophy," says co-founder Dietrich Schulze van Loon. His company moved into HafenCity in 2005. "At that time we could see as far as the Elbe bridges; now the Traditional Ship Harbor right under my offices is a real pleasure to look at." Schulze van Loon is also delighted by the energy permeating the neighborhood, "which has even changed when you come back from two weeks’ vacation." He employs 35 people in this "ideal location for communications"; the offices are designed to accommodate up to 50 employees. The prospects for further growth look good: "HafenCity goes down very well both with clients and job applicants."

His opinion is backed up by the results of the HafenCity survey: two favorite criteria for choice of location are the central situation and the quality of HafenCity. Other decisive points are the proximity to clients and business contacts, the prestige of the project as a whole - and the prospect of being able to grow with the new part of town.

One of the newer companies in the district is Funk & TV Akademie Hamburg GmbH (radio and television academy), which is based in the remodeled, listed building of the former Harburger Gummi-Kamm-Compagnie. "It was important to us that we had the possibility of developing a 400 sq. m site for our studio set landscape," says managing director Andreas Jansen. Since 2008, the first 20 up and coming journalists on the "New TV Journalist" course are being trained by 35 professionals - later the successful graduates will be working in radio, TV and multimedia. Jansen is delighted both with the location and his company headquarters: "The media sector has a great future here: we’re looking forward to having the Spiegel group, ZDF (second national TV channel) and many other creative users join us in the neighborhood."

These three examples are an excellent illustration of the success of HafenCity’s underlying concept. Already in place is a variety of different building sizes to provide accommodation for the most varied community of businesses, a fine-grained mix of uses, as well as a broad sectoral structure. And there will be plenty more opportunities for smaller companies in future, too: suitable accommodation for them is being created right now in Am Sandtorpark and Überseequartier.