Living in the European District - How It Really Is There
The European District is a new urban quarter in Frankfurt, in which around 30,000 people will work and up to 10,000 people will live. The European District is located near the exhibition grounds on the former site of the main freight station. The development work began in 2005 and the first building construction was completed in 2006. Since then, the district has been completed gradually and should be completed by around 2025.
Konstantin von Wedelstädt has lived in the European District since 2012. The Frankfurt native works for an airline and discovered the topic of airplanes as a hobby photographer. He’s recently been taking pictures of the city and his own neighborhood. He is now sharing his experiences of life in the European Quarter with us (October 2020).
SKYLINE ATLAS: Hello Mr. von Wedelstädt. It’s nice that we’re talking about the European District. You are reading little good about the quarter lately. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: In 2012 we bought an apartment in the western part of the European District, from the drawing board so to speak. Then we impatiently and curiously watched the development of the European District and moved in in mid-2014.
It was a conscious decision to live close to the city, in contrast to Riedberg or the surrounding area. The West construction site was still under construction at the time, the AXIS and Westside Tower residential high-rises were added later. In a developing building area, construction noise and dust remain constant companions with which one comes to terms.
In the meantime, we have learned to believe glossy brochures (be they from property developers or project developers) only to a limited extent. Hopefully next time you would avoid one or the other mistake, but that’s certainly the normal learning curve for any property buyer.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Let’s talk about the practical side of the European District. What do you think of?
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: The already mentioned location close to the city, combined with the skyline panorama, should be positively emphasized. But the infrastructure, the range of shops, and gastronomic offers have also improved significantly in recent years.
A very personal, but not trivial, criticism from me concerns the high and sharp curbs in the European District. What did they think when they planned them? The curbs harbor a high potential for damage to car tires and the rims as well as a high risk of injury for cyclists. Is this only done to keep parking offenders away or are there other good reasons for this?
SKYLINE ATLAS: The approximately 2.4-kilometer-long European District is crossed almost along its entire length by Europa-Allee, a boulevard in the style of a big city. How do you find this street as a resident?
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: The basic concept with a central axis and parks seems modern, functional and appealing to me, especially the connection to the green belt via Rebstockpark.
A number of new buildings are currently being built on Europa-Allee, many of which are residential towers with condominiums. From an urban development perspective, I find it particularly exciting to be able to follow developments “live” on my own doorstep, as a hobby photographer all the more.
Some culture and architecture critics have ridiculed Europa-Allee as “Stalin Boulevard“. That is certainly not entirely unjustified, because the architecture of some projects is unfortunately simple and monotonous. On the other hand, some skyscrapers like lighthouses stand out, be it the Grand Tower or the high-quality architecture of the construction fields next to the Europagarten (lit. “European Garden“), one day hopefully also the Porsche Design Tower.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Europagarten is a nice catchphrase, once planned as the green lung of the quarter. As a passer-by, one is amazed that the park has not been usable for years and has been cordoned off with construction fences.
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: That is absolutely correct and very annoying for many residents. For us, the Europagarten has slowly got the feeling of a BER (the Berlin airport that never felt finished). For many Frankfurters, it is completely incomprehensible why no solution is found here and why the park is finally being opened.
SKYLINE ATLAS: All right, this is not the first time we’ve heard this criticism either. Perhaps things will work better with the city’s other project: A new subway line is currently being built with the U5 under Europa-Allee. Are you looking forward to it?
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: That is a contentious issue. Here, too, there is delay after delay. In principle, one should ask oneself whether it made sense to build the houses and roads first and only start with the infrastructure after a long delay. Newly made streets are being torn up, trees are being replanted and residents are disturbed. In any case, I don’t want to live in the eastern part of Europa-Allee at the moment.
Due to the poorly planned infrastructure, the people in the European District still live a bit disconnected from the city. Instead of 5 minutes by underground, you are 15 minutes by bus from the main train station. Thanks to the lack of a direct connection to the city center, you feel further removed from it than it really is. That may at least help the frequency of visits to the Skyline Plaza shopping center, but the way to the city center has been awkward for residents in the European District.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Was buying your property a good decision?
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: The early purchase in 2012 has proven to be a good investment for us because real estate prices have risen sharply in recent years. That makes up for some disappointments.
If it is still too quiet in the European District for you and you miss real life, you can leave the borders of the quarter and visit the neighboring Gallus district – a delightful contrast.
SKYLINE ATLAS: But there is also frustration, we think. What are the topics that are not good in the European District?
As in most new development areas, it of course takes time for life to develop. Here the European District doesn’t do any worse than e.g. the Riedberg area. A few setbacks should be pointed out, however: many residents viewed the reallocation of the property above the western tunnel entrance (daycare instead of café and organic market on Tel-Aviv-Platz square) as particularly critical, due to a lack of interest from investors – but definitely a wasted opportunity in one Fillet piece at the park with a view of the skyline. The sudden closure of the restaurant “Laube Liebe Hoffnung” was also depressing, it was the unofficial “living room of the Europaviertel”. The new restaurant “Pauline im Europagarten” has now opened in this location, and we are full of expectations for this location.
I don’t find the western end of the European District behind the towers of AXIS and Westside Tower with the connection to the Römerhof to be quite optimal. This is where the district ends very unexpectedly, partly also due to the fenced-off railway line on which protected lizards live – but here there would be the potential for a “Highline Park” like in New York. Perhaps, however, the planned development of the southern Rebstock site will create more dynamic.
SKYLINE ATLAS: So what is your conclusion of living six years in the European District?
Konstantin von Wedelstädt: Even if the plus and minus points seem to be in balance, the bottom line is that we are happy and convinced “Europa-Viertler” and don’t regret the step.
For each individual, it is above all a fundamental decision between the charm of an old apartment in a grown area and the comfort and modern convenience of a new building.
In particular, we remain excited about the further development, the remaining projects that have not yet been implemented and look forward one day to a “finished” quarter that will then have grown up.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Thank you for the conversation.
The conversation took place in October 2020. Photos: Konstantin von Wedelstädt