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Where flowing water had once marked the divide between communist and capitalist spheres of influence were to be a phalanx of high-rise blocks made of shiny glass, some of them 80 metres tall, containing luxury apartments, hotels and offices. The Holzmarkt development is the result of an unprecedented experiment in a major world capital: what if a city allowed a new quarter to be built not by the highest bidding property developers or the urban planners with the highest accolades, but the nightclub owners who put on the best parties in town?
With the site due to be regenerated by holding company SpreeUrban, Bar25 closed its doors with a five-day party in But when talks between SpreeUrban and investors collapsed two years later and the plot of land was put out for tender, Dieziger and Klenzendorf spotted an opportunity to reclaim their old stomping ground.
Dieziger and his co-conspirators had been part of the protest movement against the original plans on the sunny northern side of the river, which culminated in locals blocking a boat tour for investors with an armada of rubber dinghies. The aim was create a self-sustaining microcosm: if one of the acrobats injures her back while training in the studio, she can drop off her children at the nursery and visit a chiropractor one floor up. In return, her troupe are required to host all their premiers at the events venue or the KaterHolzig nightclub on the site, thus raising cash that feeds back into the collective system.
If one of the businesses here struggles, then the others may have to help out. A hour-nursery for parents who worked night shifts turned out to be too complicated to organise; a proposal for floor high-rise buildings made entirely out of wood sent health-and-safety officers into fits. According to Dieziger, the value of properties in the area has risen ten-fold in the four years since the first cut of the spade. Eleven refugees are currently sheltered on the site, and there are plans for temporary student accommodation and a guest house, but none of the people behind the project live on the site.
Owning a home can make people very selfish. In contrast to Berghain, housed in an austere former power plant, Bar25 used to pride itself on its openness. In a village with four entrances and no gates, that attitude could pose a potential problem. The nearby RAW complex — another jumble of derelict buildings turned creative hub and party mile — has in recent years begun to draw stag-dos and tourists, who in turn have attracted drug dealers and pickpockets. The challenge in the first few months will be whether Holzmarkt can recreate the Bar25 experience without bringing in a bouncer or some sort of village police.