HafenCity workplace - the district as a business location

HafenCity is a business location with a character of its own: as well as its central position on the water front, its urban flair gives the location a definite plus. Offices are close by residences, as well as nice places to eat, drink and shop. Companies can interact more easily with customers or business associates here

Photo shows employees enjoying a break outdoors

A total of 35,000 office jobs are being created in HafenCity; modern and creative services already make up the biggest share (© Julian Sippel) Start slideshow

Once the construction cranes have gone and this new part of town is completed, at least 45,000 jobs will be created in HafenCity, approximately 35,000 of them in offices. The area is already exerting a growing pull on businesses, as is illustrated by the transfer of corporate headquarters to HafenCity from other parts of Hamburg, such as the Unilever HQ for German-speaking countries, which moved in summer 2009 from the Alster to the Elbe. Germanischer Lloyd transferred its head office to the new district in early 2010; the Spiegel group will follow a year later. Companies already long settled there include Wölbern, SAP, Kühne & Nagel, China Shipping and NYK Line.

Along with these and other large enterprises, around 270 smaller and medium size businesses have set up shop in HafenCity. Most of the local businesses offer creative and modern services and – while construction in HafenCity continues – building services. Also strongly represented here are media and logistics businesses, followed by commerce, financial services, IT services and management consultants. Most of the companies employ up to 50 people.

All of these businesses made a conscious decision to locate to HafenCity - often after intensively weighing up the alternatives. This new part of town certainly offers a lot of advantages, both to a company and its employees: its position in the inner city, central yet on the waterfront, is a crucial image factor, as well as making the district quickly accessible both for working people and visiting business associates. HafenCity is unique in being able to offer large sites in such a central location in Hamburg: consumer goods corporation Unilever, for example, with 1,150 employees, was able to move out of a 21-story tower in central Hamburg, now a listed building, into a brand new headquarters with just seven stories, and a much more horizontal layout. The building not only mirrors the group’s modern flat hierarchical structure, it also provides a space in which Unilever’s new, streamlined contemporary corporate culture can develop.

And of course the district is the epitome of modern metropolitan life.  Fast-growing businesses, in particular, can benefit in many ways from the new modes of inner-city experience and coexistence that HafenCity makes possible. The first advantage this offers is a growing stock of office space in the most varied typologies and sizes; this means that smaller firms have the opportunity of growing in parallel with this new Hamburg district. The fine-grained mix of uses in HafenCity offers advantages, too. It means that workplaces and homes, shops and restaurants may even be under the same roof. This is great for co-workers, who have lots of choices for their midday break or after-work leisure time. Companies can interact directly and much more strongly with the neighborhood than they can in other parts of town - with potential customers or business contacts.

This kind of dialog is promoted through the use of ground floor spaces in office buildings. The Unilever building is a good example: it has a publicly accessible mall with an ice cream parlor, a shop and a spa, all of which sell products from the various Unilever brands. Other companies have copied this example. The ground floor of the Spiegel publishing group’s new building is also partly open to the public. Local interaction also takes place through projects such as designport hamburg or the International Coffee Plaza. Here upper stories are occupied by companies in design or the coffee business, while ground floors are reserved for businesses and specialist gastronomic enterprises. Space is also planned in for lecture areas or exhibitions - such as designxport in the Design Center.

HafenCity is also developing into a favored location for Hamburg’s creative business community. Many companies, along with educational and research organizations, clubs, societies and initiatives from related creative branches, are choosing to locate into almost all the new neighborhoods. This will make it easy to set up lasting networks within the community. Geographical proximity alone means that people are already mingling in the same places: ideal conditions for cooperation to develop on various levels. The media are represented, for instance, by publishing houses, television and radio studios, a school for multimedia journalism, as well as companies in the media technology branch. The designxport design center is the hub for many connections between the 2,000 freelance designers and design offices in Hamburg - and is already planning cooperation with the Greenpeace Deutschland headquarters nearby. Architects’ practices have also opened offices in HafenCity and the Speicherstadt and their community is reinforced by HafenCity University. And the city’s new cultural landmark, the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, will also be flanked by other projects connected with musicians, including a building that combines musicians’ apartments with practice rooms.

The concept of adapting properties to special creative needs is just one of many strategies to encourage and grow the creative industry in this new part of town. But HafenCity is a location in which businesses in all sectors can find a place. There is no specific cluster policy. It is clear that the special qualities of HafenCity are convincing both in Hamburg and throughout the country: the new district and its business community are evolving in a continuing and successful symbiosis.