Highly complex diversity in a central location

While northern Überseequartier gradually unfurls its urban qualities, realization of the southern area at the heart of HafenCity successfully continues

Since fall 2007, construction has been in progress in the north part of the quarter; many buildings are finished. The area's only historic building is the listed former port authority building, Altes Hafenamt. After completion of the shell of the Überseequartier subway station, development of the neighborhood began to push south in October 2010 (© ELBE&FLUT)

Überseequartier is the most metropolitan and most visited part of HafenCity. Here 6,100 jobs will be created. Retailing occupies 23 per cent of premises, with spaces for food and drink, entertainment, offices, a vertically integrated cruise center and a variety of hotel uses providing around 1,150 rooms, as well as some 1,100 apartments. This 14 ha urban mass of Überseequartier will be more than just another urban quarter.  With what even by HafenCity standards is an extremely eclectic mix, this development illustrates just how far HafenCity has developed as a city in terms of its integrated complex mix of uses. It is setting international standards.

The northern section: largely completed

Since the spatial realization of HafenCity is taking place from north to south, the northern part, offering around 140,000 sqm gross floor area (GFA) for living, offices, retail, catering and hotel uses, has been more or less finished since 2010, with the exception of one site (34/15&16). Its structure is based on an overall urban planning concept by international architects, founded on the urban planning blueprint developed by Trojan Trojan + Partner. Public spaces throughout Überseequartier and areas around Magdeburger Hafen basin were realized according to a concept by Catalan landscape architect Beth Galí and her firm BB+GG arquitectes. The characteristic striped ground surfaces composed of reddish, gray and light-colored natural stone slabs is thus omnipresent throughout central HafenCity. 

In the northern neighborhood section, which features less retail than the still to be built south, more than two dozen shops and places to eat and drink have opened. More than 340 apartments were built and are rented out. At the same time, the 32,600 sqm of office space is occupied by well-known firms such as lawyers Esche Schümann Commichau or the oil multi BP. At the beginning of 2015 a special German real estate fund managed for several long-term investing pension funds by Hines Immobilien GmbH acquired most of the completed buildings (34/1-34/4 & 34/7). Sumatrakontor (34/6) had already been sold to Blackstone.

Last unbuilt sites developed

By spring 2018, the last remaining vacant sites in the northern section of the neighborhood will be under development. Between Sandtorkai and Tokiostrasse (34/15 and 34/16), an unusually sophisticated mix of homes, a hotel and entertainment complex with premium cinema is reinforcing the urbanity of northern Überseequartier. 

Prime responsibility for realization of the KPTN project is DC Developments. Design of the building sited to the north (34/15) is by Nalbach + Nalbach Architekten of Berlin. Here the founder of the Cinemaxx cinema chain, Hans-Joachim Flebbe, will run an Astor Kino Lounge movie house with three auditoria and more than 440 seats. The Pierdrei Hotel offering around 220 rooms will also be opened here by Miniatur Wunderland’s Frederic and Gerrit Braun with hotelier Kai Hollmann (25hours Hotel) and Norbert Aust of Schmidts Tivoli Theater. The architect of the southern residential building (34/16) is blauraum of Hamburg. It will comprise 219 rental apartments of up to 134 sqm; one third of them will be publicly subsidized. In addition, 40 long-stay apartments are being realized by Ipartment GmbH.

The former harbor master’s office, Altes Hafenamt, one of the few remaining original buildings in HafenCity, opened successfully in March 2016 after undergoing extensive conversion as an upmarket hotel.

In contrast to the conventional shopping formats of Hamburg’s city center with its passageway malls and main-street-format Mönckeberg-strasse and Spitalerstrasse, northern Überseequartier, with its owner-run boutiques, its post office, drug store and supermarket, as well as several exciting gastronomic attractions and regular weekly food truck markets, already has a profile of its own. The area around the old harbor master’s office, Altes Hafenamt, is livelier and more visited – even so the whole northern area has been affected by the delay in development of its southern counterpart.

Fresh start for southern Überseequartier

An optimistic atmosphere has been rekindled in southern Überseequartier since the overall development and realization of the project was taken over by Unibail-Rodamco in December 2014, which was a major milestone. Europe’s leading quoted real estate concern is investing around EUR 1,007million in the 260,000 sqm GFA to be developed. Of this, about 80,500 sqm will be retail, 55,000 sqm residential and 64,000 sqm commercial. In addition, cultural uses will occupy some 12,000 sqm; bars, cafés and restaurants about 8,000 sqm. While hotels will occupy about 40,000 sqm, the cruise terminal will take up about 7,600 sqm, with an underground bus station in addition.

Mixed use and commercial center

The changeover provided an opportunity to put the original concept on a new viable basis for the future. Retail concepts will be even more attractively designed, office space reduced in favor of apartments, and the cruise terminal (7) better integrated into the local urban structure and enlarged. To achieve “critical mass” in terms of individual premises in order to hold on to special anchor tenants, the sales area has been markedly increased. Retail space will be organized in the basement, ground and first stories. This way, circuitous routes will be created in basement and ground floors, with a far greater mix of retail space sizes, including two or three anchor tenants and shops, all with large dimension shop window frontage. All space on first floors will be accessed from ground floors to avoid creating the impression of a typical shopping mall.

The new southern waterfront will literally stand out: southern Überseequartier will change the cityscape, adding a new perimeter on the Elbe with an ensemble comprising the cruise passenger terminal, two central 60 m towers designed by UN Studio of Amsterdam (10) and a sculptural 70 m office building on Magdeburger Hafen basin (11) designed by Christian de Portzamparc, a Pritzker prizewinner. 

At the same time, the provisional Cruise Center HafenCity will be replaced by a vertically organized terminal integrated into southern Überseequartier with the capacity to process up to 3,600 passengers at a time and served by two berths. Apart from the actual cruise ship business, the complex ensemble of buildings also has an underground bus station, car-parking spaces and a taxi stand, as well as hotel and retail space cleverly overlapping and interlinked.

Most residences in southern Überseequartier are being built to the north of the subway line to exclude conflicts of use with the cruise terminal and late-night entertainment. Adding the around 500 units being built in the southern section to the 600 or so apartments in the northern part, Überseequartier alone will have some 1,100 residences – which is almost double the number originally planned.

Since the buildings to the south of the subway will be protected against rain and partially against wind by a glass roof and altered alignment to prevailing weather, they will create a much more pleasant shopping experience. At the same time, unlike fully air-conditioned, closed in shopping mall concepts, the open street area and open character of the spaces between the buildings will be preserved. For even though the floor space will be owned long-term by private builders, contractually and for the long term they will retain their public character in terms of their right of way and space concept, allowing the ground floor to remain open and accessible around the clock and thus guaranteeing the openness of Überseequartier.

New architecture in the south

In addition to the reworking of the use concept and urban planning structures in 2015, new architecture was also conceived for all 11 buildings in southern Überseequartier. In addition to internationally renowned architects such as Pritzker prizewinner Christian de Portzamparc (7, 11) or UNStudio (10), the important German architects’ offices Carsten Roth (1), léonwohlhage (2), kbnk (3), Hild und K (4, 9), Böge Lindner K2 (5, 8) and Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei (6), are responsible for building designs. The interior design stems from Saguez & Partners and the extravagant roof construction (13) from Walter Sobek. A highly complex glass and metal construction will shield central shopping areas south of the U4 subway station better against wind and rain, and mediates between the individual architectural highlights. As is the case all over HafenCity, high ecological standards will also be set in Überseequartier. All buildings will be constructed to meet the toughest criteria of the gold HafenCity Ecolabel or the stringent BREEAM Excellent Standard.

Open and urbane shopping quarter

Although both its use concept and the urban structure of southern Überseequartier relate recognizably to the original plans, the new start was used to introduce new elements which create much better preconditions for long term success in running Überseequartier as the mixed use, commercial heart of HafenCity. Large anchor retail uses, new entertainment attractions, including a large multiplex cinema with more than ten auditoria and 2,700 seats, a super- efficient, attractive cruise terminal, and a new waterfront area with architecturally outstanding buildings: all of these elements will add up to a sustained high visitor frequency at all times of the year that does not ebb away during the week or in the evenings – with real potential to become a thoroughly animated “24-hour city”.

Thus a new shopping neighborhood will grow up – open and urbanistic, not air-conditioned but protected against weather, which is interspersed with other well-connected amenities with public appeal, such as residential, office and hotel space. The integration of the new cruise terminal will create an overall area whose intensity of use, mix and size is so far unique, at least in Europe, and which will benefit smaller and medium-size shops and the many ground floor areas throughout HafenCity. 

Through its open urban planning structure, in which there are no climatic borders and no obvious “inside” and “outside”, the whole of Überseequartier will develop enormous integrative power for a connectivity embracing the whole of HafenCity. It will not only mobilize pedestrian flows between the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, Kaiserkai, Strandkai and Überseequartier. All HafenCity institutions, the museums, Lohsepark and all retailers will benefit from the increased underlying frequency level. For the open structure is also designed to persuade customers who have come primarily for the shopping to explore the district as a whole. Completion of central areas with retail, catering, entertainment, cruise passenger terminal, hotel and some office and residential space is expected in 2021.

In addition to the existing connection to the inner city through the U4 subway and links between the Elbphilharmonie, Landungsbrücken and Rödingsmarkt, established inner city shopping areas are to be better connected in future and many new routes will emerge. Growing together in this way will also demand high investment and businesses prepared to move to new locations between HafenCity and the core inner city. For although continuing growth of retailing in the city and the development of business improvement districts has definitely improved quality and supply, it has not yet led the two areas, city and HafenCity, to grow gradually toward each other. However the establishment of a strong magnetic pole such as Überseequartier could create the right conditions for the gradual introduction of a comfortable stroll between Mönckeberg and Spitalerstrasse and Hafen-City, taking in the Speicherstadt en route.

Construction starts

After the dismantling of the temporary Terminal 2 at the HafenCity Cruise Center (Terminal 1, Hamburg’s first inner-city reception center for cruise ships, remains fully functional until 2021), construction began at the beginning of 2017. Since southern Überseequartier will have a spread foundation, a sheet pile wall is being built first of all and almost one million cubic meters of earth excavated for the vast building site, almost seven meters below sea-level. Only then can the actual construction begin. Completion of central areas with retail, catering, entertainment, cruise passenger terminal, hotel and some office and residential space is expected in 2021. Two further buildings will follow only then: logistics space outside the massive construction site is very limited in HafenCity.

Neighborhood profile

  • Area
    14 hectares
    Total GFA: 410,000 sqm
  • Homes
    c. 1,100
  • Special institutions
    Altes Hafenamt, Überseequartier U4-subway station, vertically structured cruise terminal, multiplex and premium cinema

  • Uses (GFA)
    Retail: c. 94,000 sqm
    Office: c. 97,000 sqm
    Homes: c. 123,000 sqm
    Culture/entertainment: c. 14,000 sqm
    Hotel: c. 55,000 sqm
    Catering: c. 16,000 sqm
    Cruise terminal: approx. 8,000 sqm

  • Jobs (fulltime)
    Retail: c. 1,900
    Office: c. 3,200
    Culture/entertainment: c. 150
    Hotel: c. 550
    Catering: c. 300
    Cruise terminal: c. 40
    Total: c. 6,140

  • Development timeframe
    2007 till 2017 (north)
    2017 till 2021 (south)
    2021 till 2023 (two later buildings)