Ruins of pre-gentrification: Schrotthäuser and urban standstill in a post-industrial city
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the phenomenon of urban standstill in the German city of Bremerhaven. It presents the Goethe-district's many scrap-houses as ruins of anticipated gentrification, which maintain the current inhabitants' local futures by delaying the gentrification everybody continues to foresee.
Paper long abstract:
The Goetheviertel is the poorest district of Germany's poorest city, the postindustrial harbour city of Bremerhaven. However, for many local inhabitants it is also the city's most beautiful district with its 19th century architecture and central location, and any visitor of Bremerhaven would agree: this district is ripe for gentrification. Gentrification has been anticipated at least since the 1980s when the city declared the Goetheviertel to be an investment area. Investors from all over the world bought property in the district, but, as many inhabitants underline today, they never invested anything into the maintenance of their houses. The results are ruins of pre-gentrification: houses that materialise the absence of gentrification with their ongoing decay. These houses, as many of the people living in the district, might still await a better future, but for them time has run out. Their deterioration has deemed them scrap ('Schrott'-) houses that are legally uninhabitable. They epitomize the standstill in urban renovation that dominates both district and city. However, this absence also produces spaces for those who are usually excluded from a gentrified future. The scrap houses' material qualities therefore maintain the current district inhabitants' local futures by delaying the gentrification everybody continues to foresee. The result is a standstill in urban development that nonetheless demands investments in the future by renovating its built inheritance from the past. This paper explores the many failed and partially successful attempts by local residents and urban planners to, finally, take this district into the future.