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  • Stacey Shevlin

Rote Flora – Still Standing In Hamburg

The Rote Flora is a former theatre in the Sternschanze quarter in Hamburg. It has been squatted since November 1989 in response to a decision to turn it into a musical theatre.

Taken from Wiki:

After the department store closed, musical producer Friedrich Kurz came forward with plans to turn the empty building into a musical theatre. However, residents, shopkeepers and autonomous groups responded negatively and, within months, the protest grew. Nevertheless, the historic building was partly torn down in April 1988. The protests continued and culminated in violent assaults by militant groups. The need for police protection and the negative response in the media eventually caused the investors to abandon the plan.

Until the following summer, what remained of the building stood vacant, although several groups that had been involved in the protests had ambitions to renovate and reuse the theatre. In August 1989, the city unexpectedly offered a six-month lease to these groups. After the lease was official, it opened on September 23, 1989. However, the lease was soon declared obsolete and the Rote Flora was declared as squatted on November 1, 1989. Since then, the Rote Flora has functioned as a cultural center, offering space for cultural and political events. The project is financed by donations and fundraising events and conducted independently.

Between 1990 and 1991, the project turned the deserted rear of the building which had been the construction site into a park. However, the city planned to build flats on the site, and eventually, an eviction order was executed by a large force of police.

In August 1992, the Senator for Urban Development urged the organizers of the Rote Flora to sign a valid lease within six weeks. If not, another eviction order would be deployed. Negotiations lasted for months; the eviction was not ordered and the Rote Flora remained squatted.

A fire in November 1995 destroyed a large part of the building, but it was soon renovated and restored. The Rote Flora remained a cultural and left-wing political meeting point. In autumn 2000, the Senate of Hamburg once more started negotiations about a new lease. After 11 years of occupation, the Rote Flora was a political issue and a point of discussion in the 2001 elections.

After controversial discussions, the occupiers refused any further negotiations with the Senate. In response, the Senate sold the building in March 2001 to the entrepreneur Klausmartin Kretschmer. In the following weeks, Kretschmer made clear that no changes would be made; the Rote Flora would remain autonomous. The Rote Flora had its 15th anniversary in November 2004.

The contract with the owner and the city expired in its original form at the end of March 2011. The contract specified the conditions under which Kretschmer could sell it and that it must be a social center. These conditions expired with the contract, permitting Kretschmer to sell to any buyer for whatever price he wishes.

The people using the Rote Flora started a campaign “Flora bleibt unverträglich” to campaign against possible eviction, and a Twitter account, @florableibt.

In December 2013, the city’s decision to redevelop the Rote Flora site became the focus of large and sometimes violent demonstrations. Ultimately, in mid-January 2014, the borough of Altona announced a change in plans for the site that would ensure the building would not be demolished and could remain a cultural center.[1]


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