Urban work place on the water front

HafenCity’s working population ranges from employees of small or larger companies, self-employed creatives, or service staff for retailers and the restaurant and catering business. But the future workforce of 40,000 or so here will be working in a very urbane, inner-city district - not a pure office environment

Photo shows Daniela Beckmann in her HafenCity office

Daniela Beckmann works as a marketing manager for JOM Jäschke Operational Media in the new district - and she’s crazy about it: “I feel more rooted in Hamburg than ever – and my identity as a Hamburger” (© Bina Engel) Start slideshow

Even though working in HafenCity has been her daily routine for a long time now, Daniela Beckmann’s enthusiasm for this new part of town has not lessened at all: "I feel even more rooted in Hamburg - and my identity as a Hamburger," says the 26-year-old marketing manager at JOM Jäschke Operational Media. This creative company, which employs 55 people, moved into Kaiserkai in the spring of 2009. "In other parts of town, you’re just not conscious of the port," says Beckmann. "That’s a shame, because it’s an important part of all Hamburg stands for." And she ought to know, she’s a born Hamburger. "In HafenCity, on the other hand," she continues, "that maritime but urbane feeling is authentic and alive."

It’s an opinion shared in the meantime by almost 6,000 people who are working in the new district. Many smaller and medium size businesses are settling in the new part of town alongside some large companies. As well as the many qualities of the inner-city district, people working here really appreciate the good transport connections with the rest of the Hamburg area, provided by the various bus lines, for example - and soon the new U4 underground rapid transit line.

Daniela Beckmann actually knows HafenCity from even earlier on: she was a pioneer here back in 2007, so now she finds it "really great to see how much everything has altered since then." She tries to spend her midday break near the water, if possible, "to give my head a blast of fresh air. Your eyes can drink in the water - it’s very relaxing." If the sun is shining, she likes to make for Feinkost HafenCity on Vasco da Gama square, a small eatery located between Sandtorhafen and Grasbrookhafen.

Feinkost HafenCity has been supplying local co-workers as well as residents and passing visitors since 2007, which makes it one of the old-established businesses here. Italian Nora Lazaro, aged 47, does the cooking and waitressing here. She finds the easy accessibility of her workplace is a real plus: everyday she jumps onto her bike to cycle from her home in the southern neighborhood of Veddel, and back again. "We are busier every day: at the beginning, two years ago, we only had four or five dishes on the menu. Now we have twice as many," says Lazaro. The pressure is greatest at midday, of course. Although the choice of places to drink and eat in HafenCity has grown enormously, at lunchtime, this small restaurant feeds employees from around 270 businesses - who all want to be served at once.

Yet eating does more than just fulfill bodily needs: the bistros, cafes and restaurants are also popular places to meet up, to exchange news and make contacts. The broad spectrum of sectors represented in HafenCity - particularly construction, media, logistics, trading, finance and IT - means that people with completely different training, employment backgrounds and experience get to meet.

So Nora Lazaro, for instance, might get to meet Melf Diedrichsen from the Hamburg suburb of Winterhude. His route to work on his bike or Vespa is like an endless string of postcard views - down past the Alster Lake and right through to the Elbe. The 33-year-old human resources development officer at Kühne + Nagel has been working in the district for the past two years - "and I like it more and more, especially as there are increasing possibilities for going out at midday or staying on for a drink after work." He is already looking forward to the additional leisure and cultural opportunities that will be opening up in the neighborhood of his workplace - the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, for instance, on the point of Dalmannkai, or the cornucopia of shopping possibilities that Überseequartier will offer. "It’s really breathtaking to see how quickly HafenCity has developed since I started working here," Diedrichsen says, "I’m really excited to see what the next two years will bring."