back to article Uncool: Google won't be setting up shop in disused Berlin electrical substation

After months of protests centring around a local anarchist bookshop, Google has left the disused Berlin electrical substation building – where the international ad-tech behemoth had planned to open a Google Campus branch. Google's intention to turn part of a former substation, Umspannwerk Kreuzberg (maps), on Ohlauer Strasse …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Google Campus is a hot-housing scheme where in return for that sweet Googly cash, startups are encouraged to set up shop in Google-owned premises while using lots of Google-made and provided services, including training and business mentoring.

    Your staff only need to carry the GoogleSuppositoryID to get into the building. In addition food and drink us automatically chosen for them in the canteen.

  2. DropBear Silver badge
    Flame

    Facing the prospect of a soaring rent I would be protesting too. Having to swallow that your life is always going to be infinitely better and richer than mine (just because under current rules of our society you allegedly do something to "earn" riches that whatever it is I do apparently doesn't "deserve") is just not enough, do you actively need to make mine much worse...? Fuck you, mate.

  3. Spazturtle Silver badge

    But Google would have been paying a lot of business rates for the property thus funding the local authority.

  4. Korev Silver badge

    I'm not sure what to think here; on the one hand it avoids some people being priced out of where they live. On the other hand, according to the story in the Local, Google no longer have plans to put a centre in Berlin which means the money will go elsewhere on the planet and possibly the new businesses won't be formed.

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    the money will go elsewhere

    The same argument gets rolled out in the face of "we shouldn't sell arms to murderous regimes", "people should be paid a living wage", "the environment needs better protection", etc.

    Berlin is doing very well, from a shaky start after reunification, and if they don't want it ruined by a Bay Area-style social apocalypse then they've clearly seen what happens when the money is elsewhere and learned a valuable lesson.

  6. Flywheel Silver badge
    FAIL

    You forgot the /S, I think

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Google no longer have plans to put a centre in Berlin which means the money will go elsewhere on the planet and possibly the new businesses won't be formed.

    New businesses in Berlin are unable to rent premises or have ideas without Google?

  8. big_D Silver badge

    There is more to the story than has been printed here - or rather a lot of background.

    Berlin, especially, is suffering from sky-rocketing rents at the moment, because the property companies running a lot of the rentable tower blocks and "Altbau" flats in major cities are coming in and "improving" the buildings (putting in double glazing, clearing up the rising damp that they have ignored for decades etc.) and then telling the residents that they haven't just cleared up problems, but turned the block into luxury flats, and that will be 60% - 120% more rent per month, thank you very much.

    With that background, it is hardly surprising that residents in price sensitive areas of Berlin aren't too happy about other, external factors adding to their misery. Off the top of my head, I don't know how bad Kreuzberg is, in the grand scheme of things, but there is a lot more going on in the background than the story makes out.

    (We are talking about things like pensioners living on the poverty line being told they need to find double the rent next month or find somewhere else to live, after 60 years in the same flat.)

    Add that to the general bad reputation that Google has and you can see why people might not want them around.

  9. Spanners Silver badge
    Facepalm

    @Dan 55

    New businesses in Berlin are unable to rent premises or have ideas without Google?

    That's right. New businesses don't have the money Google would have passed to them to helped pay for stuff. Uncreated new businesses will remain uncreated because the centre that would have helped them with their ideas is somewhere else and helping someone else with their ideas instead.

    At least they got to keep their old derelict substation...

  10. big_D Silver badge

    Re: @Dan 55

    And the dozen or so other incubators and startup centers in the city?

    Google isn't the only company investing in startups, there a several incubators and a lot of startups with angel investors in Germany. It isn't a Silicon Valley only thing and it doesn't need a California based conglomerate to get it working.

    It would be good if these start-up centers moved out of Berlin and spread themselves out a bit. It isn't only people in Berlin that have good ideas.

  11. lglethal Silver badge
    Meh

    @ big_D

    A stat i read on BBC (of all places) said that Kreuzberg is suffering from around 70% rent inflation (Berlin is more generally around 40%).

    Berlin's not the only place, its happening all over Germany - Bremen's gone ridiuclous, Augsburg impossible to buy (but still suprisingly affordable on rent), and München has always been insane. Crazy times...

  12. big_D Silver badge

    Re: @ lglethal

    Yep. I used to live just outside München and my 89M² flat was 1150€ warm (2002), that would have got me less than 50M² in the city itself, at the time. I hate to think how high the rates are now.

    I moved to North Germany a few years later, 110M² for 350€ warm... We then bought a place, before the boom started.

    As my step-daughters moved out to start studying, all I can say in thank goodness for Baugenossenschaften.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Facing the prospect of a soaring rent I would be protesting too.

    So given the choice of more wealth coming in at the expense of increasing rent, you chose to say no to development, employment, increased foreign currencies and more. By extension poverty would be better than prosperity. I guess that is meant by "worse is better".

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    It seems like a natural opportunity for A/B testing.

    Split the city into two zones, allow unfettered US capitalism in one part and a commitment to reduced poverty and inequality in the other half.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Having to swallow that your life is always going to be infinitely better and richer than mine (just because under current rules of our society you allegedly do something to "earn" riches that whatever it is I do apparently doesn't "deserve") is just not enough

    Nice attitude. Often in my work I help people I expect to earn a lot more than I do. That is what I am paid to do. Should I kick them in the face instead?

  16. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    I guarantee a lot of renting in B and commuting to A. I suppose you could build a wall between them to discourage that.

    ...What? Too soon?

  17. JohnFen Silver badge

    "possibly the new businesses won't be formed."

    Nobody needs Google's help to form businesses, and the sorts of businesses that Google is interested in "helping" mostly aren't the sort that really helps local economies.

  18. JohnFen Silver badge

    Re: @Dan 55

    "New businesses don't have the money"

    It takes far less money to get a business going than people seem to assume. You don't need a deep pocket to finance a business startup. The traditional method of starting business still works, it's just less likely to make anyone an overnight millionaire.

  19. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: @Dan 55

    New businesses don't have the money Google would have passed to them to helped pay for stuff. Uncreated new businesses will remain uncreated because the centre that would have helped them with their ideas is somewhere else and helping someone else with their ideas instead.

    Perhaps this search can help show there are alternatives to Google.

    Not a Google search, to show there are alternatives to Google...

  20. TheMeerkat

    Re: @ big_D

    Anything to do with the recent influx of people from abroad who need to live somewhere?

  21. jmch Silver badge

    "But Google would have been paying a lot of business rates for the property thus funding the local authority"

    Whoever will be occupying the building will pay rent

  22. jmch Silver badge

    "given the choice of more wealth coming in at the expense of increasing rent, you chose to say no to development, employment, increased foreign currencies and more"

    You're confusing things here - Experience has shown that the increased wealth goes to a select few while the higher rent and costs apply to everyone

  23. big_D Silver badge

    Re: @ big_D

    Nope. Most of the people affected and complaining have been living there for decades without problems. The owners are renovating and fixing things like rising damp, bathrooms from the 1950s/1960s and functioning central heating and claiming that makes it a luxury flat.

    The refugees are often living in camps (there is a large one near where I live) and when they do get a flat, it is often social housing, as they are not in a position to pay high rents.

    It is the owners of the buildings trying to "yuppify" the areas where they have property, so that the property is worth more and thus they can charge higher rents. There is a housng shortage in big cities, but not because of immigrants. The problem is, most of the people who work in the city (or pensioners) can just about pay the old rents, but not a chance in hell of paying double the rent. And finding anywhere else to live at around the old rent is getting next to impossible.

    We are talking about a scenario where people with a take-home of around 1,000€ a month are suddenly being told to pay 1,200€ a month to keep living in their current flat. That obviously can't work.

    The government has recognized the problem and they are trying to implement rent-caps, where the owners can only raise the price by ~10% when the current lease is up, not chuck the current people out and charge the next person who comes around the corner 120%.

    It seems that all the flat owners suddenly want to rent luxury flats, regardless of whether there is anyone who can actually afford them.

  24. big_D Silver badge

    @jmch

    Exactly, someone working at the local fast food restaurant for minimum wage and struggling to pay their rent at the end of the month isn't suddenly going to earn more money, just because Google has moved in and rents have skyrocketed over night.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "earn" riches

    just because under current rules of our society you allegedly do something to "earn" riches

    Yeah , see , I made that mistake as well. I thought that was the rule too.

    I went to college . did engineering. proper engineering - with electronics and robots and stuff. and maths . oh god the maths ....

    Not only is that incredibly difficult , its absolutely essential to our modern way of life.

    Our society is built on technology and engineering.

    ... so I'll probably be well rewarded for that , whilst making a useful contribution I thought.

    Yeah well it didnt work out . So society can fuck off - the next chance I get to scam some money out of the system* I'm taking it .

    *open a wonga.com, or a casino , milk a govt contract, asset strip a troubled company, be a lawyer.

    Be a middle man taking a slice .

    B ark stuff.

    /rant

  26. Unep Eurobats
    Gimp

    The G word

    The question is, what's going to happen to it now? As a wannabe hipster I love disused electricity substations, particularly if they have an artisan cafe, a bike shop, a tattooist and a moustache-waxing boutique.

  27. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    Re: The G word

    Maybe if Hipsters put some lenses in those thick-rimmed glasses then they'd be able to see enough to find them

  28. A.P. Veening

    Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    Seems like nothing has changed in Berlin, still run by reds and anarchists.

  29. 3man

    Re: Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    Indeed, particularly that period between 1933 and 1945.

    http://ufpnews.com/leftists-who-claim-the-nazis-were-right-wing-are-lying-through-their-teeth-heres-why/

  30. phuzz Silver badge

    Re: Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    You link appears to be down, shame that. I assume it's repeating the usual canard of "well the nazi party was actually called the National Socialists so really the nazis were left wing".

    I guess that does always leave the options open of whether you're being deliberately disingenuous or just plain ignorant. Fascists be fashionable at the moment it seems.

  31. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Re: Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    Well the Nazis were collectivist/corporatist economically, which is the left wing end of the economic spectrum. While also being nationalist, which is more the right's territory. So there's some argument to be had there. Although my favourite is seeing arguments in places like the Guardian where the lefties attribute all nasty regimes to the Right, because Communists aren't really lefty either, they're nasty right wingers just like Nazis.

    Which I guess works if your worldview is left = pure and good - right = nasty if not evil.

    In reality "left" and "right" were descriptions of where parties sat in the Assembly after the French Revolution, and have always been of dubious use in describing actual politics. Then you've got that slightly better 2-axis "political compass" chart with liberalism/authoritarianism in social policy on the x axis against left/right economics on the y axis. Although I'm not sure how any of this describes the more extreme parties, who don't really believe in democracy - and though they have an ideology, will often happily ignore that in favour of keeping themselves in power or feathering their own nests.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    > I assume it's repeating the usual canard of "well the nazi party was actually called the National Socialists so really the nazis were left wing".

    >I guess that does always leave the options open of whether you're being deliberately disingenuous or just plain ignorant.

    Care to provide links that support your view. Yes, there are many opinions out there but I am specifically asking for what supports your view here.

    >Fascists be fashionable at the moment it seems.

    Yes. And that is why I asked this question. The entire concept of fascism is hard to grasp since it has been made contradictory. You would have thought that Mussolini knew what he professed? Especially since he was quite open about what he wanted? And yet in recent times the incestuous relationship between government and business is now no longer a qualifier. This is very interesting since in many western countries the relationship now is highly incestuous where politicians are in and out of companies that are to a large extent state owned, in fact much to the national stock exchange shows the largest companies tend to be state owned/controlled, complete with heavy statism.

    Having worked in such companies I have seen this from the inside and it sure is not pretty. It was clear that large sections of management got their positions thanks to political affiliations and one told us straight out that promotions required us to be "good social democrats." They are not even embarrassed to say it out loud.

    So Mussolini would have nodded with appreciation but nobody seems to be willing to admit that.

  33. phuzz Silver badge

    Re: Berlin - Roten und Chaoten

    "I am specifically asking for what supports your view here."

    I'm not espousing my own views, I'm taking a guess as to the previous commenter's views, especially as they seemed to be trolling.

    As for Mussolini, he's not someone I've studied in detail but I always got the impression that he was a raging narcissist who would say whatever he felt like at the time to stay in power (can't think who that reminds me of in modern politics). So taking anything he said as being a useful clue to his political beliefs would seem to be risky to me. He probably never had a fully thought out idea of his own politics, so how could anyone else work it out?

  34. msknight Silver badge

    Google's image...

    ...is already down the crapper.

    The only thing they may achieve from taking over a power station, is access to thicker pipework to flush what remains, ever faster to the sewer.

    ..which is what appears to have happened here.

    I mean... they still can't spell properly - http://msknight.com/technilife/?p=857 - I told them of that bug more than two years ago. And you still can't switch off American spelling if you're UK English... so that also stuffs up any faith in their spell check. - (hence, it accepts color as well as colour and you can't tell it to stop applying American spelling to British documents.)

    Google is just an abomination of a company, in my eyes.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google: Who loves ya baby?

    The answer is no one. Slurp away google but people are getting tired of you and what you do and even more about how you do it.

    Go back to the USA and like most Americans, forget that Europe ever existed. MAGA!

    Vote Trump in 2020 You know it makes sense /s /s /s

  36. JohnFen Silver badge

    Re: Google: Who loves ya baby?

    "Go back to the USA"

    As a USian, I'd much prefer that Google weren't here, either.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprised nobody has commented on the restaurant just on the next block on Reichenberger Strasse - Restaurant Bastard. Maybe the BOFH got in early to stop Google ......

    https://www.bastard-berlin.de/

  38. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Happy

    Nice. Is that a restaurant that only serves the finest horse, panda and dolphin? Yummy!

    I'll have the Bambi-burger.

  39. juice Bronze badge

    Berlin is an odd place...

    It was an isolated "outpost" during the Cold War - leading to things such as the Berlin blockage/airlift.

    And I've been told that for at least some of that time, there was a policy whereby students could avoid national service by volunteering to live/study in Berlin [*].

    So it's always had a left-wing student bent, and when the wall fell, the east side of Berlin had less industry and generally was in far worse condition. Cue lots of people shifting about, as people shifted from east-west for jobs and students shifted from west-east for cheap accommodation.

    Fast forward to today, and you've still got some aspects of that hanging around. There's still a number of large "squats" and communes. It's amazingly dynamic, with throngs of international students and entrepreneurs; you'll hear people talking in English wherever you go. There's street markets, anarchistic bars with no windows, where photography is banned [**] - and large swathes of the city are blurred out on Google Streetview. It's incredibly cheap for a capital city: generally, it's closer in pricing to Sheffield than Manchester or London, you can have a good meal for under 20 quid and there's still a few bars where a 500ml bottle of beer costs just one euro.

    OTOH, the city is flat broke, renting an apartment can be an absolute nightmare and the administration has been trying to sell off anything it can get it's hands on with few or no strings attached. So large scale construction has kicked off and is meeting some fairly stiff resistance from the various left-wing groups.

    For better or worse, money is winning, and Berlin is slowly transforming into something closer to London.

    [*] According to the bloke wot ran the street-art tour I went on. He also mentioned that where developers have tried to use famous street-art pieces as a selling point, the artists have often returned to paint over their own works in protest, such as the docks near Oberbaumbrücke.

  40. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Re: Berlin is an odd place...

    Same everywhere, cheap unwanted area attracts artists/startups. Area becomes cool and fashionable, more people move there, rents go up, people demand that the government do something to preserve etc etc

    I'm a starving artist, the government must do something to allow me to buy a cheap loft in SOHO, Montmatre, Chelsea

  41. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Re: Berlin is an odd place...

    > ...avoid national service...

    True. You just needed to move to Berlin. Nasty surprise for many who did that when the wall fell: a letter with a "friendly invitation" to start army service... to people in their end twenties.

    Oops --------->

  42. Eat Pineapple

    Google and power stations

    Funnily enough, in Australia the NSW state govt pursued them to occupy the disused White Bay power station and they declined!

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-12/google-backs-down-on-plans-to-base-itself-at-white-bay/8436686

  43. TobyDog

    The street view is interesting. Google clearly don't want you to see the building.

  44. juice Bronze badge

    > The street view is interesting. Google clearly don't want you to see the building.

    That won't be due to Google.

    Germany and Berlin in particular are very keen on privacy. The last time I was there, I tried to take a picture of an interesting-looking building near State Park - just the building front, with no humans in shot. However, there was one of the aforementioned "alternative" bars on the ground floor, and a gentleman in full-blown traditional punk clothing popped out and barked angrily at me until I moved away...

    If you look around Google Street View in Berlin, a lot of places are ghosted out, especially if they're near to any squats or "alternative" venues.

    Similarly, (when last I checked) the last time that the Street View van trundled around Berlin was 2006 or so. There's been a *lot* of construction since then, so SV increasingly has very little resemblance to how it currently looks...

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did they expect?

    From the article:

    >One of the protesters said he was surprised by Google's retreat.

    Yes really? Seems someone wanted to protest just for the fun of it, expecting to be overruled so they could have more protests and if Google later had a problem they could fall back on the eternal "told you so!"

    Germany not only succeeded in running a modern production economy in the West but is perhaps the only one left. Given the financial troubles it is to be expected that Germany is doing well financially while service industry focused countries like the UK is having more troubles. A startup scene is seen to need to be somewhat near an academic centre and industry (basically the Silicon Valley premise). What place is left in Germany that is not very expensive and fulfils these requirements?

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Google is just a company that is sensitive when it comes to its image."

    Oh yes it is. Image is a capital, you save some of it somewhere so you can spend it elsewhere. It is entirely in Google's interest to be very careful when it comes to relatively unimportant things like start-up centers, and use whatever capital they have on more important stuff. The profitable kind. There's a good reason companies have a PR department.

  47. jmch Silver badge

    Right message

    "locals chasing off a well-heeled multinational corporation was sending the wrong message to business. "

    I think the locals are sending the right message to business - We prefer businesses who are engaged with and have a stake in the community, and whose taxes paid will benefit the community - rather than companies who will take money from the community, then fudge their expenses to pretend they aren't making any profit to not pay any local tax, all the while playing holier-than-thou

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