September 22, 2020

Protests in Berlin against the “Amazon Tower” project


Berlin

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Today a demonstration of the “Berlin against Amazon” movement takes to the streets in Berlin, but it is not about protesters against Jeff Bezos’ online sales packages, but against a real estate project that the radical left of the German capital perceives as threatening. We are talking about the popularly known as Amazon Tower, a 35-story apartment tower next to the Friedrichshain Warschauer Bridge in East Berlin, whose official name is « Edge East Side Tower», And with which the American company mocks the growing obstacles of the real estate market of the German capital.

The project was approved by the Berlin authorities in 2003 and will be ready to move into in 2023. In principle it was a building for renting apartments, but in 2019, due to the new rental price legislation, Amazon announced that its plan was to move to the building, occupying 28 of its 35 floors. There he will locate the Amazon research and development center in Berlin, which currently employs around 1,200 people from 65 countries, and will also have housing for employees. There would be room for up to 3400.

The building will visually shape the newly created neighborhood around the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where Zalando has also moved to several office buildings. “We will occupy an area of ​​55,000 square meters in Edge East Side,” explains Jonathan Weiss, head of the Amazon research and development center in Berlin, “we plan to significantly increase the number of employees in Berlin in the coming years and mainly the center’s employees of development will stay in Edge Tower ». These are programmers who develop applications for the Alexa voice assistant or Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services. An example is automatic translations, with which retailers can translate their product descriptions into 32 languages ​​at the press of a button. This is the type of activity that will occupy a number of workers that could even triple in a short time.

Another team that will move to the building is the one currently working with Volkswagen in the development of an “Industrial Cloud”, in which data from all the machines of the 122 VW factories around the world will be merged in real time. It is currently located in the so-called Rocket Tower, the former GSW tower and Rocket Internet headquarters, near Checkpoint Charlie, because in the royal headquarters of the previous development center, the Krausenhöfe behind the Springer skyscraper in Mitte, there is only room for 500 persons. These departments currently employ about 400 developers and want to hire at least another hundred as soon as possible in Berlin. The possibility of offering a home in the contract makes these positions much more attractive and offers the company better chances of signing over the competition. In addition to the 1,000 developers that make up the total, another 1,800 people work for the Audible audiobook subsidiary, in customer service and, above all, in the logistics centers in Brieselang and Kiekebusch near Schönefeld. And all this influx of highly paid employees, poses a threat to a sector of the population concerned about gentrification and rising rental prices.

“We don’t want Amazon in Berlin,” the megaphone shouts the slogan repeated by several hundred protesters, “Save your neighborhood! Fight against Amazon!». “Flower Power against Amazon Tower,” say the banners. “We have already seen the consequences in Seattle or San Francisco Bay,” explains one of the founders of “Berlin vs. Amazon,” John Malamatinas, “Google, Facebook or Amazon are like a magnet for the international technology elite, employees of Very high incomes that need a home and can pay much more than us, so they would end up throwing us ». The arrival of this type of companies and employees, however, is a relief for the authorities of a deficit city-state that maintains its standard of living thanks to the solidarity transfer of the rest of the Bundesländer.

The uncertainty in the real estate market of the German capital It is leading the owners to avoid renting the properties until the constitutionality of the roof at rental prices is legally clarified. Both individuals and companies increasingly opt for the construction or purchase to the extent that they can afford it and, in the case of expanding companies, Human Resources departments are becoming involved in the relocation of employees and active search for housing.

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