Start-up time for new neighbors

People deciding to make HafenCity their work place as well as their home are increasingly putting their mark on the new part of town in very special ways. Many of them are taking the opportunity to set up a new business - or to move an existing one to a more exciting part of the city

Photo shows the Traditional Ship Harbor

Maritime and urbane: the district’s special flair has already prompted quite a number or residents to fulfil their dreams of a business of their at last (© ELBE&FLUT)

Stefan Diesselhorst’s journey to work couldn’t be much shorter. He just has to cross the stairwell and a couple of steps later he reaches his company’s showroom. His business premises are located in the ground floor of one of the buildings on Sandtorkai. Further up in the same tower is the residence of the proprietor of Diesselhorst Software and Consulting, where he has been living since 2006.

"I wanted to live centrally and close to the water," is Diesselhorst’s explanation for his move to HafenCity. "But at the same time, the atmosphere here is almost village-like and familiar; neighbors know each other and we’re continually crossing each other’s paths." As it turned out, the move opened up an additional market for the IT specialist. He primarily develops electronic point-of-sale systems and with all the new local retailers and gastronomes there is of course demand for such services. So through his new showroom he has opened his company to the city and the surrounding district as well.

Diesselhorst does not see the close vicinity of his work and private life as a problem - in fact the opposite: "That’s exactly the way I always wanted to have it," he says, "I work in a creative field, which means that inspiration doesn’t necessarily always come during working hours." He regards hard and fast distinctions between life and work as "antiquated in the 21st century."

What Stephan Diesselhorst says, absolutely applies to HafenCity as well: one of the planning principles for the district was a conscious decision not to realize purely residential or working areas. Instead both uses are densely intermingled. That’s why many people regard HafenCity not merely as the place they live in - because they are also employed by one of the 270 or so locally based businesses here. This feeling is particularly intensively experienced by people who run their own companies and whose service, retail or restaurant businesses are frequented by the public.

For some people, this new part of town has finally made them grab the chance of opening up a business of their own - and making a long-held dream come true. This is true of Rosemarie Motsch, proprietor of coffeehouse "K.u.K. – Klein und Kaiserlich." That’s a play on the imperial past of Vienna and you can’t get more Viennese than this - it’s clear the minute you cross the threshold of this café’s beautifully put-together interior (Am Kaiserkai 26). "First of all I just fell for a particular wallpaper," reports Motsch. "But then, to get more inspiration, I hung out in various coffeehouses in Vienna and Salzburg. After six months I’d also got the rest of the decor sorted out."

Austrian-born Motsch was used to working for herself - before she started a family, she had run a fashion boutique. At the beginning of 2008, she and her husband and their two children moved into an apartment on Dalmannkai. "When I noticed this unoccupied space in the neighborhood, I knew at once that it would be my coffeehouse."

Of course, having your own business also requires a lot of work, even in HafenCity, and then there’s the entrepreneurial risk to cope with. But because of the continual supply of freshly built ground floor space, the neighborhood simply offers more opportunities than any of the established parts of town. Worapoj Mamangkung discovered a location for her restaurant just by looking out of the window of her apartment.

The owner of "Tai Tan" (Kaiserkai 56) has been living in Germany since 1992, having learned her trade in the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. It’s important to her to have her own style: her aim was to create a restaurant "that doesn’t look like a restaurant". That is why, instead of ordering her interior decor from the catalogs of conventional Asian shop fitters, she planned everything herself, blending modern and traditional Thai styles. Mamangkung says: "It fits perfectly in a modern location like this that also embodies the future and the past."

The side-by-side existence of work and home life will continue to be promoted in HafenCity. Additional suitable sites for this are in the pipeline: entrepreneurs already find plenty of new opportunities to suit them in Am Sandtorpark/Grasbrook and Überseequartier.