Von Frank Vincentz - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53385154
The Harmelin-Haus, Nikolaistraße 57/59, Leipzig. (Photo by Frank Vincentz - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Artist residence in Zentrum to give way to hotel

in Cityscapes/My Leipzig/Society

Two days ago, Stadt Leipzig announced that 2018 was “the best tourism year in [Leipzig’s] history,” with 3.4 million overnight stays. The city is also about to reach the mark of 600,000 residents. This leads to more construction, to transformation, to greater diversity… but also to the death of certain ways of life.

Here’s a little history about a local landmark, and what’s about to become of its modern incarnation.

One of the last unrenovated houses at Leipzig Zentrum, the Harmelin-Haus dates back to 1913-14. Located in the Brühl area – Leipzig’s old Jewish quarter and the birthplace of Richard Wagner – it belonged to a Jewish merchant family, whose company would be liquidated during the Nazi regime.

Today it’s a multipurpose building. You have probably seen it, at Nikolaistraße 57/59, with BackWerk on the ground floor – but did you know it’s also an artist residence and cultural center?

Not for much longer, though: Most tenants at number 57 must move out by 30 April 2019.

Leipzig's Nikolaistraße 57/59 in 1915. (Photo: public domain)
Leipzig’s Nikolaistraße 57/59 in 1915. (Photo: public domain)

The 63-meter-long building survived two world wars and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and will now be transformed to house hotel rooms. This marks the end of an era when free creative expression took place behind those walls, and when artists could live there paying very little rent.

According to an article in the LVZ, Harmelin-Haus tenants received their termination notice at the end of January 2019, after the Harmelin heirs sold the building to the Berlin real estate company S&R. The Feb. 22 article also says that renovations had been long needed and would have been welcomed by most of the tenants; but their lack also meant keeping the rent at a minimum.

Now, the refurbishing comes not only at the expense of the artist residence, but also of other freelancers and small non-profits and businesses.

Among the out-going tenants at Nikolaistraße 57, LVZ names “several painters, editorial offices, a writer and director, a photographer, a city tour agency, a web designer, the Association for Industrial Culture, and the German-Spanish Friendship Association.” The fate of the tenants at number 59 – including BackWerk, the Kriminalmuseum and AdventureRooms – is still unknown, but they are also preparing to receive a termination notice.

This development will mean yet another hotel coming into an area that has at least a dozen accommodation options within as many blocks – including the Marriott right across, bearing the iconic Michael Fischer wall painting.

In fact, 15 hotels have opened in Leipzig between March 2016 and December 2018, and 11 more are planned for the near future, according to a list from Leipzig Tourismus. Six of those are slated to open by the end of 2020, the highlight being the reopening of the historic Hotel Astoria near Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

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