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New start for southern Überseequartier

A breakthrough has been made in the development and realization of southern Überseequartier in the heart of HafenCity: a new financially robust, creative partner, Unibail-Rodamco – a leading, listed real estate corporation operating throughout Europe – is ready to take over the overall development and realization of southern Überseequartier.

A new creative partner, Unibail-Rodamco is ready to take over the overall development and realization of southern Überseequartier.

A new creative partner, Unibail-Rodamco is ready to take over the overall development and realization of southern Überseequartier.

At the same time, this was also an opportunity to provide a promising new basis to the original concept by enhancing the retail component and making it more effective and attractive, cutting down the amount of office space in favor of residential accommodation, integrating the cruise terminal better into its urban surroundings, and tackling wind and weather protection. Southern Überseequartier will retain its accessible urban character. The new waterfront on the Elbe River will be enriched by an architectonically arresting and distinctive ensemble consisting of cruise terminal, Waterfront Towers and a new building at least 70 meters in height by Pritzker prizewinner Christian de Portzamparc.

The new concept for southern Überseequartier ties in with the original plans both in terms of its use concept and its urban structure. Through new elements the new start will also be used to create much better conditions for the successful operation of Überseequartier as the mixed use, commercial heart of HafenCity long term. An open, urban shopping quarter will take shape - not air-conditioned but protected against the weather – which will contain a mix of well interlinked public amenities as well as residential, office and hotel space. Moreover, the integration of the new cruise ship terminal will create an overall area that is unique in terms of intensity of use and size.

The innovations in detail: the use concept

  • Living space increases: office accommodation will be sharply reduced in favor of homes

The area of office space will be reduced in favor of residential space from a previously planned 142,000 sqm GFA (gross floor area) to 90,300 sqm GFA. The proportion of housing thus increases considerably to 92,700 sqm GFA throughout Überseequartier (compared with 48,000 sqm GFA under the old plans). The majority of the homes will be built to the north of the subway route; this will preclude conflicts of use with cruise ship operations (which will still not be fully emission-free in future).

  • Enlargement and improved urban spatial integration of cruise terminal:

The future Cruise Center HafenCity will move into two floors totaling 4,600 sqm GFA in an ensemble of buildings consisting of hotel and retail space (previously 3,000 sqm GFA; the present provisional terminal has 2,400 sqm), which will embed it much more efficiently in the urban surroundings of the neighborhood. There will also be an underground bus station as well as an underground taxi rank. This will help to cope with the impact of strongly growing cruise tourism activities and numbers of cruise ship visitors and harness their potential for the city center.

The innovations in detail: retail trade

  • Retailing in Überseequartier will be stronger overall, more diversified and efficient

Successful retailing plays a key role, both for realization of Überseequartier itself and for HafenCity to function well as an urban district in the long term and to converge with the existing city center. Against this background, the amount of retailing space in southern Überseequartier is to be raised to 80,500 sqm gross floor area. This larger area will greatly expand the diversity on offer. Major anchor users could also ensure higher shopper frequency even during the week; this would also have knock-on effects for smaller and medium size shops and the many ground-floor situations in HafenCity. Überseequartier will also mobilize pedestrian traffic between the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, the Speicherstadt, buildings in future on Strandkai, Shanghaiallee and Baakenhafen neighborhood. The positive trends in tourism in Hamburg mean that retailing in the new concept can also be combined with entertainment elements; this would increase the frequency of visitors overall, and especially in the evening.

The innovations in detail: urban development

  • The new urban development concept for southern Überseequartier links up with elements in the previous plans, for instance a continuation of the use of brick materials in the central area, something that imparts a characteristic design identity to the whole center area of HafenCity. Southern Überseequartier will maintain the character of an open urban space – with improved weather protection. This will allow it to influence HafenCity’s overall development positively and encourage its coalescence with the existing city center.

The urban development element of retailing will be restructured. The concept foresees a retail structure with one run of units on two levels: the upper story will be a trading floor at the same height as up to now (8.30 to 4.20m above sea level); the basement level under it will be constructed as a retailing level, the  ground floor pathways equipped with generous openings. Atmosphere will be created by the space above the ground floor level being left as an open urban space between the buildings. Overall this will be a sophisticated urban structure on various levels, which protect the shopping experience from the weather, whilst keeping the urban space open.

One crucial innovation is a special weather protection concept conceived especially for the location. It consists of two components: the placing of the buildings will reduce wind exposure particularly from the prevailing wind direction. Also a glass roof construction will protect part of the pathway, particularly south of the U4 subway stop. This concept is in principal reminiscent of 19th century open arcade concepts. The central east-west axis over the subway track remains an open pathway connection without covering. Pathways between buildings – with or without overhead covering, whether at ground-floor level or not – will not be air-conditioned. This rain and weather protection concept developed by the wellknown engineering firm Werner Sobek, will make experience of the amenity much more pleasant.

Instead of the original plan for a Science Center building, which is no longer realizable after the withdrawal of state co-financing, a striking landmark building about 70m high, accommodating offices, will be positioned on the prominent Magdeburger Hafen/ Elbe corner site. The building, designed by Pritzker prizewinner Christian de Portzamparc will have a public viewing platform (perhaps catering). This makes a special urban endpoint for the axis from the existing city to the Elbe.

Summary of data on the use concept (gross floor area):

Cultural facility/           10.000-12.000


Offices                         56.900 

Retail                           80.500

Catering                      6.000

Housing                      44.800

Hotel                           23.500

Cruise terminal            4.600

Total                            226.300-228.300


What happens next?

Next a concentrated phase of planning will get under way. The architectural designs for the individual buildings will be evaluated. This will extend throughout most of 2015. At the same time, revision of the land development plan will begin; the basis for obtaining building permission applications and building permits. Construction will probably be able to commence in 2017; completion of central sites for retail, catering, entertainment, the cruise terminal, hotel and some office spaces is expected in 2021.

A strong new partner for southern Überseequartier

Unibail-Rodamco SE, established in 1986, is the Europe’s largest listed corporation in the area of commercial real estate, with branches in 12 EU countries and an investment portfolio of EUR 33.6 billion (as at 30 June 2014). As an integrated operator, investor and developer, the group is geared to cover the entire real estate value chain. The group is outstanding because of its focus on the highest architectural, urban planning and environmental standards. Its long-term objectives and the sustainable vision of the corporation are concentrated on developing and refurbishing high-value locations – for shopping, working and relaxing. Its commitment to ecological, economic and social sustainability won it inclusion in the DJSI (global and Europe), FTSE4Good and STOXX Global ESG Leaders indices. The group is listed on the CAC 40 in Paris, AEX 25 in Amsterdam, as well as the Eurostoxx 50 index and has been given the “A” rating by both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

 As proprietor, developer and operator in Überseequartier, Unibail-Rodamco will integrate planning, construction and operation of retailing trade and catering sites, as well as the publicly accessible thoroughfares. This will allow Unibail-Rodamco to achieve conceptual integration and, through its continuous HALTEverpflichtung???? possession and operating obligations, the basis for high quality development in HafenCity.

Realization of southern Überseequartier will see investment of around EUR 860 million. Retailing, catering operations and entertainment alone will generate 1,900 full-time jobs.

Background to the change of strategy and the search for a new partner

Construction work has been suspended in southern Überseequartier since October 2011. Whilst the original investment consortium consisting of Groß & Partner Grundstücksentwicklungsgesellschaft, ING Real Estate and SNS Property Finance (now Propertize) was able to realize most of northern Überseequartier between 2007-2010 into a sophisticated use mix of rental homes, retailing, catering, a hotel and office space, development of southern Überseequartier began to stagnate from 2009/10.

The financial crisis brought considerable economic repercussions for the two bank partners in the consortium. As a result, ING Real Estate withdrew fully from many European markets and, in March 2013, it withdrew from the three-party Überseequartier consortium. All of its rights and obligations were then assumed by the remaining partners, SNS and Groß & Partner. But the financial crisis did not leave SNS unscathed either: because of real estate risks, the company was taken into Netherlands state ownership in early 2013; today it operates under the name Propertize.

Against the background of these changed circumstances, Propertize and Groß & Partner, in agreement with HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, made use of the year 2013, within the framework of a step by step investor selection process, to search for a financially sound developer and proprietor to take on the southern Überseequartier project as a whole and to develop a much more efficient retailing concept. After wide-ranging marketing mobilization, a deadline of November 2013 was set for offers which were presented by companies based in Australia, the USA, Canada, Arab states and other European. In agreement with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the concept and offer presented by Unibail-Rodamco was selected to be pursued further. Negotiations by Groß & Partner and Propertize, with participation of FHH represented by HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, began in April 2014.