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Am Berliner Hauptbahnhof

June 10, 2011

As the German national rail network began to take shape in the closing decades of the 19th century, several large and impressive terminus stations where built in metropolitan Berlin. The most important of these was the Lehter Bahnhof, connecting the booming German capital with the ports in Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, and the sprawling industrial regions of the Rhineland. Sustaining substantial damage during the allied bombing campaign in the Second World War, and later succumbing to German division, the closest thing Berlin had to a central station was demolished and remodeled as a small temporary stop on the city Stadtbahn network.

With German reunification however, the need to reintegrate the nation’s largest city and new capital into the national grid was apparent, and significant funding was allocated. The Deutsche Bahn also decided to build a proper central station, or Hauptbahnhof in Berlin, something that the city had previously not had but is a fixture of nearly every urban place in Germany. The site of the previous Lehter Bahnhof proved to be an obvious choice for this new central station.

Historically the site had obvious merits, and in a reunified Berlin, an area that was once home to a segment of the Wall allowed a large, vacant area upon which to build this new station and an entirely new city quarter. Plans for a new metropolitan airport also called for a central terminus in the center city for a purpose built shuttle route and once again, being placed between old City West and City East proved beneficial.

Opened in 2006, the large glass station provided express, brand new subterranean north south tracks with destinations in Munich, Hamburg and beyond. The east west link combined with the existing central Sbahn line and provides links to western Germany and Poland. An architectural masterpiece, the station stuns and welcomes visitors to Berlin with a bang, having become a centerpiece of German reunification and the resurgence of Berlin. While the surrounding area was largely empty in 2006, nearly a decade of extensive infrastructure upgrades and investment has left a several square kilometer area in the very center of Berlin ready for large-scale private investment with fantastic development incentives from the city authorities.

Since 2009 several large hotels have opened and by the end of 2011 several more, much larger projects are to break ground. The Humboldthafen, a large harbor area that lies just to the east of the station is expected to play host to numerous luxury housing developments and large shopping quarters, as well as an anticipated new art museum.

Just minutes from Friedrichstrasse, Kurfürstendam and Alexanderplatz, this once awkward wasteland to the north of the Reichstag is poised to be the focal point of the Berlin in the coming decade. Berlin is not a city that seeks to fit many international norms, but in regards to a central station, the German capital is on the cusp of reinventing its Grand Central Station, its Waterloo, its Chátelet.

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