saarbrueckerstrasse-17-chronology

abmahn-frosch

Chronology of Events Kollwitzstraße 2

What happened in the corner house to date:
Saarbrücker Straße 17 /Kollwitzstraße 2

We are currently going back and adding stories and pictures with YOUR help.  German

2017

FEBRUARY

Oops, thanks to a letter from a bailiff, WE now know that we are third-party debtors in our landlord’s legal case and from now on we need to pay our net rent into a creditor’s bank account. Hmm, what should we make of that?

JANUARY

Things aren’t that quiet after all. Apparently inaccurate utilities charges for 2015 (with some really hefty payment demands) which WE all had in our letterboxes a day before Christmas, keep us on our toes for a bit.

The puzzle of the pointless cordoned-off area has finally been cleared up by the council. The reason: The owner was given a permit for the storage of building materials for the house in which WE live. Authorisation period: until the end of 2017 (sic!). Well it isn’t exactly what WE would call a visual enhancement of the Chagall café forecourt, especially for all the customers to enjoy during the summer months! Also: the heightened risk for cyclists and pedestrians on this highly frequented corner is worrying. So please take care! The obstruction of the view means that accidents can happen, especially when lots of people are walking around and not looking where they are going.

2016

DECEMBER

From now on WE will write updates less regularly, depending on what happens here. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t just as concerned about our housing situation: vacancy levels, neglect, the need for repairs and strange building plans are still on our agenda.
But for all those who would like to have a good head-scratch with us, here is the end of year picture puzzle: what is this picture of?

Absperrung

Somebody from the neighbourhood also thought this was a bit of a pointless set-up and ensured that those responsible weren’t just let off the hook without a good telling off:

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Oh and the singing courtyard is also an event this month. Watch the video.

NOVEMBER

Across the road on the corner of Saarbrücker Strasse / Schönhauser Allee a lot has happened over the past few months.
Now it’s time for the landscaping. That means the garden is making a comeback in a modernised version. Sadly, the trees that were felled won’t be replaced. WE hope we won’t lose the nice view of the growing and greening of this new urban garden due to construction tarps in front of our windows.
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OCTOBER

WE take a trip to the building authorities to take another close look at the approved building application. Interesting! And by the way: Bike thieves are really the lowest of the low! And it’s bad for your karma.

SEPTEMBER

The entrance to Saarbrücker Strasse doesn’t look quite as browned off as it was (See below JULY 2015). Current look:

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And when did the house number decide to do a 90-degree turn?

AUGUST

The summer time is coming to a peaceful end at the house. But beneath the surface important things are going on. A building application is being approved. WE are allowed to take a look at the plans. Additionally we find out that apparently they have received confirmation of “self-containment”, which is one of the prerequisites for turning rented flats into saleable ones. How is that possible? We thought the ban on conversion of rental flats into freehold apartments precludes that. We haven’t received a decent answer on this yet.

JULY

Luckily local politics and politicians haven’t yet lost interest in the future of our house, as can be seen by a small query that was answered on the 28th July in the local district council.

JUNE

WE miss the summer hustle and bustle of the corner restaurant Courage. The wooden shutters have been down for almost half a year and these messages will soon be a thing of the past:
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MAI

Summer on the Senefelder Platz!

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Where have all the flowers gone? Saturday night, one day before Mothers Day, all the window boxes disappeared…

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WE will soon have to hang warning signs on the walls like our neighbours in Kollwitzstrasse…
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Secretly insulated? Not us. Just the construction site across the way…

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APRIL

With a complete standstill in the corner house WE live in, where vacancies and stasis dominate the scene, across the road a speedy construction project is underway before our eyes.
Transformation from October of last year, compared to now:

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MARCH

kollwitzstrasse2-cafe-courage-16-1Spring is in the air. The window boxes of the recently closed corner pub hang forlornly and lopsided on the house wall. Doesn’t have to stay that way. WE have added a bit of colour to the flower boxes of Maison Courage.

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Our community clean up is back!

kollwitzstrasse2-prenzlauerberg-putz6WE don’t want to watch as all the dirty uncared for corners of our hallway, stairwell and courtyard stay that way for weeks on end. So WE take the broom into our own hands and get together for a Saturday clean up.

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kollwitzstrasse2-prenzlauerberg-putz3                      kollwitzstrasse2-prenzlauerberg-putz1

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FEBRUARY

Oh, those dirty corners…

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WE need to find a date to get together to clean up the mucky corners that the cleaning company ignores!

JANUARY

Last Chance: Raise a glass to Maison Courage
140 years of pub history are coming to an end at Senefelder Platz. The publication of the book “Uff’n Bier” already served as a kind of memorial to the almost extinct breed of Berlin pubs, several months ago. In the “Courage”, formerly the Altberliner Bierstuben, this typical Berlin pub culture was beautifully portrayed by the photographer Henning Kreitel in large format images: you are sincerely invited to the exhibition opening and to the farewell party of “Courage“ on Thursday, 14th January 2015 from 7pm. At 8pm – as so often before here – the Trio Scho will perform.
More information on the closure of Courage in an article in the Berliner Zeitung from 8.1.2016  //   and   Pankower Allgemeine Zeitung  from 9.1.2016.  TAZ from  11.1.2016

2015

DECEMBER

Inforadio 22.12.15

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All is currently quiet for US tenants on the rough and ready property market, in the house WE live in. No real estate marketing website online. No sales offers on the

usual estate agents websites…
What’s going on? It would seem the gamble hasn’t paid off, because they forgot to reckon WITH THE TENANTS. The new laws ensure that we have a say.

As one of the first houses to be “tested” under the new laws in the Pankow district’s “Milieuschutzgebiet” (socially preserved area), our house is key. After the Berlin House of Representatives voted to approve the new laws preventing unhindered re-designation of rental properties into saleable real estate in March, we can only say after three-quarters of a year: We approve! It came just in the nick of time for US. Sadly, for so many houses in the community and all over the city, it was too late…

We have a CURRENT PROJECT for which

we need YOUR support:

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Maison Courage  in the ground floor of our house has a commercial lease that runs out at the end of 2015.
Considering the current deadlock, the lease could easily be extended for quite a while with no problem. Then this vital hub for evening flaneurs and night owls wouldn’t have to lose one of its popular charming establishments.

WE want Maison Courage to stay! If there are good reasons why this isn’t possible, we would at least like to give the corner establishment that belongs to our house a decent send-off. Help us and join in with our DECEMBER ACTION

OCTOBER 2015

The scaffolding is still standing, unused, in front of the entrance to Saarbrücker Straße 17. It is in the way. Our paper recycling bins haven’t yet returned. But positive things are happening too: The entrance hall is being cleaned again, the doorbell system has been repaired, as has the entrance hall lighting. A remarkably quiet October in terms of the changes in our house.
Beyond our door however, less pleasant changes are afoot toward the end of the month: Under the sunny autumnal sky the pizzeria garden is being completely churned up. The big old lime trees, home to many birds, and a green oasis in this urban area, have been felled. WE wonder why.

SEPTEMBER 2015

WE still have a broken doorbell system on the Saarbrücker Straße 17 side of the building, and an article about our house appears in the Prenzlberger Ansichten.

AUGUST 2015

Two large building site elements disappear from the Saarbrücker Straße 17 at the beginning of the month: the scaffold in the hallway and the grey construction carpeting that had been rolled out for weeks in the stairwell. Yippee!

And something else has also disappeared: our house and corresponding apartments no longer appear on the website of the former exclusive distribution real estate office. Peace in our time? Will the story end well? Not so fast… The second real estate company that has been active since the beginning of July has several flats in our building up for sale. As of the end of october, this link is no longer availiable.
And a company that never makes itself known is now selling empty flats in our house via the online platform immowelt.de. An enticing text has been written: “Your urban nest. You aren’t just investing in old-fashioned status symbols, you’re investing in sustainable luxury…” (Source: PBP Peking Berlin Properties on immowelt.de). Aha!

After around two weeks the link is taken down (31.8.), but instead there are other “reference objects”. They state there: “The vacant flats will be renovated to the highest standards”. They are offering the “chance to purchase an old-build apartment with the interior standard of a ‘new build’”. The first real estate company with the crossed out text as seen above, is also recently reactivated. (As of the end of october, this link is no longer availiable.)
WE continue to ask ourselves how this activity is compatible with the Regulation of the Transformation of Rental Housing. Oh, and there was an article about the  “managing director” in the Zitty (local city magazine).

JULY 2015

There are also some positive things to report: on July 17th our hall and stairs were mopped again for the first time in weeks. Almost in every corner…

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Our house is a topic in Prenzlauer Berg Nachrichten on 23.7.2015
WE are also a hot topic in the Berliner Morgenpost on 18.7.2015
WE are not so happy about the fact that the article focuses so strongly on T. Wolf, after all, it’s about ALL OF US, OUR living situation and a feeling of anxiety, that WE ALL share.
In his name, two corrections of the article linked here are important to US: firstly, an apartment is mentioned for sale, 87,13 m2 in size, which is not necessarily the apartment that T. Wolf lives in, even though the article could give this impression. Secondly, according to the land register, the new ownership situation for the house in which WE live, came into force not on June 3rd 2015 as formulated in the article, but in October 2014.
17.7. “Department is alarmed” Berliner Abendblatt
17.7. A very detailed reportage about the sit-in in the Pankow Allgemeiner Zeitung.
13.7. Article on the direct action at berlinxxnet
12.7. Despite the rain, the event organised with the Mieterforum Pankow (report) was a resounding success. WE were able to exchange information and the Abendschau (evening news) reported on us briefly. A few impressions:

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The month begins with an indefinable layer of brown paint on the formerly heavily tagged entrance door of the Saarbrücker Straße. We hope that the brown is just an interim solution.

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The post we had been promised by the property manager via the press by mid-June never materialised, and there was no reaction to our official complaints about dirty hallways, the broken bell system and missing paper rubbish bins.
The more interesting developments can be followed in the internet: while the former real estate company is putting the apartments of our house on the market, boasting “exclusive rights” (Status: 07.07.15), a further real estate agency (no longer available as of 16.7.) has manoeuvred itself into the top spots of the Google search engine (search term: Kollwitzstraße 2) no advert available. Status 13.7.) In the ad the future construction of two elevators is announced.
For Sunday, 12th July the Tenants Forum Pankow has organized a sit-in in front of our house. Come along between 3 and 5 pm to see what Pankow residents have to put up with in some of the rented housing and what politicians have to say about it. WE contribute with a small craft stand for old and young making “cautionary frogs”. For instructions see below.
Instructions – how to make a “cautionary frog” Bastelanleitung-abmahnfrosch-kl

June 2015
My goodness me. When it comes to our tenancy situation, by the middle of the month more is happening in the media than behind the façade of our home. In connection with the reports about the horrifying living conditions in a house in Schöneberg, WE and the house we live in, are thrown into the midst of the media storm. Here are the articles we are aware of:
June 19th: Berliner Zeitung about two inner-city houses with particularly pressing and alarming issues.
June 18th: Four minutes on Radio1 with interview excerpts from a short visit to OUR house and interesting research results.
Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

June 15th: The house and US in the Berliner Kurier
June 13th: The opening article about the Kollwitzstraße 2 / Saarbrücker Straße 17 in the Berliner Zeitung with accompanying commentary article.
What else is going on: On June 11, our paper recycling bin is taken away. Great, another topic for new correspondence with the property management and a time consuming project to find another way of disposing of our paper. Oh yes, and on 16.6. right on time, we remove all the signage and décor hanging on our apartment doors. We receive no response to our request to permit signage etc. 
And that’s how the small frog, made in a kindergarten out of a coffee filter, pipe cleaners and paper, which had to give up his habitat on the door, was given a new name: the “cautionary frog”.
New owners are noted in the land register at the beginning of the month. WE receive a written caution with corresponding appendices. We have hung provisional signs stating “People live here” or “Nice people live here ; )” which elicits a caution for contractual violation and we are threatened with extra-ordinary termination of our rental contracts in the case of continued violation. Some people may consider this behaviour reasonable, but WE don’t. To be on the safe side and to make things clear to the building workers, these signs are hung:

Under the new category “History” we uploaded the first images from times long past.

MAY 2015
This month ends with the laying of “carpet” in the hallways of the Saarbrückerstraße 17 the first renovation of an empty flat and the noxious fumes where the paint is removed from the entrance door (?) as well as the removal of name signs on the letter boxes that are in use.
Since May 2015 a partial scaffold has been erected in front of the entrance to the Saarbrücker Straße 17. A section of the façade is knocked off; building refuse lies under the bell system.
Building dust in the hall and stairwells remains where it is. WE take on the cleaning of the communally used areas in a cheerful cleaning day at the weekend.

APRIL 2015

For the tenants in the uppermost floor, the month ends with water damage, caused by work in the attic. In the hallways restorers work on several days in April to expose lots of interesting surfaces.
WE show the Department of Urban Regeneration our flats. On that occasion some tricky business became apparent. For example elevators have been planned to lead directly into bathrooms that were renovated in 2009, or pre-existing piping had been ignored.
At short notice the Tenants Association Prenzlauer Berg show us building plans that have been submitted by the so-called new owners an they make a protocol of our stating of mistakes made in the original floorplans. Apparently it is not common policy that tenants like US are allowed to take a look at the protocol. It is sent directly to the urban building regulatory body. We find this procedure very strange. Interestingly, without having noticed anything, or having moved at all, WE have all moved one storey higher. How is that possible? In the documentation of the so-called new owner, the mezzanine floor is rechristened the first floor. Abracadabra, and we are moved up in the world.

MARCH 2015

On 26.3.15 some of US receive a letter from a business consultant, in which he informs US that he has been instructed to take over the property management, the house has been sold to a real estate company and the rent for April should be paid into the new account of the property manager. A letter to confirm this from the previous owner? Nothing. Some of US don’t even receive the letter with this information in it.
In the trade register announcement WE find out that the aim of the supposedly new ownership company is “the purchase and subsequent economic utilisation of real estate”. WE kick of a small enquiry:
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In the House of Representatives a new law states that it is prohibited to transform occupied rented flats into privately owned real estate. WE think that is a good thing. Our house lies in that jurisdiction: Milieuschutzgebiet Kollwitzplatz.

JANUARY & FEBRUARY 2015

WE continue to sporadically meet groups of people in the hallways or at the rubbish bins in the courtyard, obviously project developers, interested buyers and real estate agents. WE do a bit of research and then read the real estate blurb about OUR home, with the claim “A COMPLIMENT TO BERLIN” aimed at potential apartment buyers, written as though WE didn’t even exist, and as though there was no such thing as tenancy rights.
The promises of the real estate merchants for our flats read something like this: “…living in premium central area … 21 apartments and one penthouse …a  combination of modern interiors and the “Berlin Touch”, state-of-the-art design, highest levels of living comfort with direct access by elevator…” – Far be it for us to suspect a possible luxury renovation might be in the offing. 
The prices for our flats now lie between 4.600 and 6.500 euros per square metre – cheap at half the price, genuine Prenzlauer Berg bargains. The future penthouse with roof terrace has no set price as yet.

Raucous vandalising teenagers celebrate parties in empty flats. The partying youngsters miraculously have keys for the flats they are celebrating in, where WE LIVE, partying through the night, only to disappear again in the morning.
That is the sound of the tools of surreptitious eviction being turned up louder and louder. Noise pollution? Harassment? Is that another way of saying “Welcome to the world of real estate machismo, treating OUR HOME like just one more easy source of profit?

NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2014
After years of largely speculative stagnation from the owner’s side, a whole list of much needed renovations and defects are reported that went unresolved, build-up of refuse in the courtyard, a noticeable degeneration and run down feel of the corner house and stealth tenant-freezing out of several apartments, WE notice that for those of US who want to remain here and see this as our HOME, a new phase in our tenancy begins.

The house was already being touted in the internet at the beginning of November 2014. The empty flats have been available with actual prices since mid-April. No one has mentioned this with us.
(Addition from June 11, 2015; Image update: The linked floorplan shown on the homepage no longer reflects our floorplans!)
This happened in an area of Prenzlauer Berg that is under tenant protection, and where, since March, a ruling has come into force outlawing the transformation of rental housing into private ownership.

What happens next is another story, WE want to keep collecting and telling the story of this house. Collect with us and send us YOUR memories, images and links.
After all, the CHAGALL and the COURAGE can also be found in this house, where ONE or OTHER of you will have had the odd adventure …
And if you’ve never visited these pubs before it’s high time you did…

Galina, Thanks for translation!