Checkpoint Charlie

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Not Tanks but Property Developers Face Off at Cold War Flashpoint

No tanks, just hot dogs. Source: Adrian Purser/Creative Commons
No tanks these days, just hot dogs.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Irish owner is now hoping to sell the property, which has been barren for over 20 years.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Buildings on the site were long planned to house a Cold War museum by the city.
    • The money used by the developer to buy the property is on the books of Ireland’s bank bank, holding non-performing loans.
    • The wasteland is on the coveted shopping street Friedrichstrasse.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The snack bars and shops on vacant lots by Checkpoint Charlie could give way by the end of the year to new commercial buildings, filling up a once highly guarded area used as a major point of entry into the former communist-controlled East Berlin.

The Irish owners, who purchased portions of the land in the mid-2000s but never undertook construction, now want to sell them. Finding a buyer shouldn’t be a problem, given the city’s current real estate boom.

Carsten Spallek, a Berlin city counselor for construction, welcomed the prospect of something finally happening on the land, which has been vacant for the past 20 years. He does not want to place any hurdles in the way of investors. He is particularly annoyed by what he calls the “inappropriate temporary solution” at the historic site, where at the height of the Cold War Soviet and U.S. tanks faced down each other at the infamous East-West checkpoint.

Mr. Spallek said he hopes the cocktail booths and hot dog stands currently standing on the property will soon give way to a “permanent use through real buildings.”

According to Mr. Spallek, the land is governed by a building code. That means anyone planning to construct residential or commercial buildings in line with the height and proportions of other structures in the area can expect to receive a quick permit.

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