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

Überseequartier will be the most metropolitan quarter and most visited part of HafenCity. Here alone more than 6,000 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 more than 1,000 apartments. The 14 ha urban mass of Überseequartier will be more than just another city neighborhood.  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. Since the spatial realization of HafenCity is taking place from north to south, the northern part, offering around 140,000 m² GFA for living, offices, retail, catering and hotel uses, has been more or less finished since 2010, with the exception of one site.

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 public space planner Beth Galí and her firm BB+GG arquitectes. In the northern neighborhood section, which features less retail than the south, currently under construction, more than two dozen shops and places to eat and drink have opened. More than 340 apartments have been built and are rented out so far. At the same time, the 32,600 m² 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. Sumatrakontor has meanwhile also been sold to a pension fund.

Northern section complete

In 2019, the last ensemble still under construction was completed. Between Sandtorkai and Tokiostrasse, DC Developments is building an unusual constellation of a unique city hotel with a harbor stage, a premium cinema (Pierdrei) and an adjacent residential building (KPTN). 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 by the 25hours Group. In contrast to the conventional shopping formats of Hamburg’s city center with its passageway malls and main-street-format Mönckebergstrasse and Spitalerstrasse, northern Überseequartier, with its owner-run boutiques, its post office, drug store and supermarket, an organic food market, fitness studio as well as several exciting gastronomic attractions and regular weekly markets, already has a profile of its own. Especially in the area around the old harbor master’s office, Altes Hafenamt, its livelier and busier character is visible.

In southern Überseequartier a major milestone was achieved in December 2014 when the overall development and realization of the project was taken over by Unibail-Rodamco (now Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield). Europe’s leading quoted real estate concern is investing over one billion euro in the total 260,000 m² GFA to be developed above ground. Of this, about 80,500 m² will be retail, 55,000 m² residential and 65,000 m² commercial. Cultural uses will occupy some 12,000 m²; bars, cafés and restaurants about 8,000 m². While hotels will occupy about 40,000 m², the cruise terminal will take up about 7,600 m², with an underground bus station in addition. The development will become Hamburg’s third inner-city focus for retail, eating out and bars, leisure, services and living, complementing the existing facilities in Mönckebergstrasse/Spitalerstrasse (City East) and Neuer Wall/Gänsemarkt to Jungfernstieg (City West).

Fresh start for southern Überseequartier 

The changeover provided an opportunity to put the original concept on a new viable basis for the future. Retail concepts have been even more attractively designed, office space reduced in favor of apartments, and the cruise terminal 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 have ground floor access without a first floor gallery to avoid creating the impression of a typical shopping mall, especially as shopping will be distributed between ten separate buildings which are only inter-connected at below-ground basement level. 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 terminal, two central 60 m towers designed by UN Studio of Amsterdam and a sculptural 70 m office building on Magdeburger Hafen basin 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 will also have 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 600 units being built in the southern section to the 600 or so apartments in the northern part, Überseequartier alone will have some 1,200 residences – which is more than 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.

Mixed-use commercial center 

In addition to the internationally renowned architects Christian de Portzamparc and UN Studio, the important German architects’ offices Carsten Roth, léonwohlhage, kbnk, Hild und K, Böge Lindner K2 and Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei, are responsible for designing the 14 buildings in southern Überseequartier. The interior design stems from Saguez & Partners and the extravagant roof construction 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.

Large retail anchor tenants, new entertainment attractions, including a large multiplex cinema with ten auditoria, a super- efficient, attractive cruise terminal, and a new waterfront area with architecturally outstanding buildings: all of these elements will add up in Überseequartier 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”. 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.

Creating new connections

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 private 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 (BIDs) have definitely improved quality and supply, they have 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 Mönckebergstrasse and Spitalerstrasse and HafenCity, taking in the Speicherstadt en route. 

After the dismantling of the temporary Terminal 2 at the HafenCity Cruise Center, construction began in 2017. Unibail-Rodamco held the ground-breaking ceremony in April 2017 in company with Hamburg’s first mayor, Olaf Scholz, Urban Development and Housing Minister Dorothee Stapelfeldt and the management of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH. Excavation of the construction pit followed, and roughing-in began in the first half of 2018. Completion of the central areas is expected in 2024.

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