Changing Minds in Frankfurt

Agents of Change

There’s hardly a district in Germany that stands for change more than the Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt. Even before Jürgen Teller’s photo reportage in 2013, the former passage to the city center had already begun to blossom into the “place to be,” as a popular entertainment district that is cosmopolitan, shrill and loud.
Martina Lenhardt from the agency Vier für Texas (Four for Texas), Nuri Romanus, owner of the Pracht bar and Michael Wagener from gutleut publishing are all active in the development of the Bahnhofsviertel. How do those that know the scene assess the change in this trendy district?

Martina Lenhardt, Vier für Texas
“For all the hipness, the Bahnhofsviertel is a rough place that I absolutely don’t want to romanticize.” Martina Lenhardt studied in Frankfurt and for many years she lived in the neighboring Gallus neighborhood. She knows and loves the Bahnhofsviertel. She works as a conceptual designer and copywriter for the advertising agency “Vier für Texas.” Every morning she rides her bike to the loftlike rooms of the agency in a rear building with industrial charm on Taunusstrasse, in the middle of the red light district. The noise from Taunusstrasse, where police raids are a regular occurrence, including on this morning, sound surprisingly distant from the fourth floor. How much does the team catch from what happens out there? “A lot,” but basically everyone stays in their own world. “You don’t simply pass by the brothels and bars,” stresses Martina. At some point one becomes more interested in the coexistence of the half and underworlds, and if you look a little closer, it’s possible to discover real places of wonder, like the Masonic Lodge on the Kaiserstrasse.
Less glamorous are the shops neighboring the agency. For Martina these trinket and one Euro shops belong to the neighborhood. Around the corner, the whole budding art scene gathers at Café Plank. This is where Frankfurt’s metropolitan character is.
For how much longer? The rehabilitation of older buildings set in motion complex processes, as Maria has seen. Together with Oskar Mahler, from the advertising nonprofit Bahnhofsviertel, Vier für Texas operates the online platform “Frankfurt Bahnhofsviertel Guide” on behalf of the city of Frankfort. The platform informs readers what can be seen behind the scenes in the neighborhood. They want to show another side of the neighborhood, converting negative headlines into positives, in order to slowly effect a change, according to an employee of the economy department. But how can one actually reach the people who are coming out of this milieu and convince those places that are being reported about not to disappear? The threat is real, say Martina, “The gentrification of the district through efforts in political education and through the settlement of the creative scene go hand in hand here – even if they don’t want to know anything about each other. These and other processes have been active in the neighborhood for years.”

Nuri Romanus, Bar Pracht
Nuri Romanus owns one of the new trend bars in the Bahnhofsviertel. About half a year ago he openit Pracht bar at Niddastrasse 54. It’s a sympathetic mix of a cafe, lunch kitchen and bar. In the evenings beer is served instead of cocktails. The selection of drinks suits the casual nature of the Weisbadener with Aramaic roots, he’s quick to become friends with his guests. Nuri is also no stranger to the party scene. For example, in the animated Pik Dame, an institution of the Bahnhofsviertel, he regularly organizes the party series Spielektro. His favorite thing is to be behind the turntables himself, sometimes at Pracht as well.
The lively restaurateur always likes to try new things. He wanted to be a carpenter, but early on he was lured by the fashion world. At 19 he opened a modeling school, put on fashion shows and organized an Aids gala, moderated by none other than the TV star Lilo Wanders. Likewise, in the Wiesenbad culinary scene he’s set his own priorities. And now in Frankfurt, “We’re the new hotspot for going out at the moment,” he euphorically declares. “Everything’s been changed for a while – it’s been pimped up.” “Just don’t adapt” is Nuri’s motto. This approach can be seen at Pracht, with all of its stylistic design inconsistencies. The intentions is that the newly added party room will be redesigned again and again. In the small kitchen of Pracht is comfortable just like with mom, and from the wooden tables it’s possible to watch the chef prepare food. The familiar is what Nuri treasures about his neighborhood, “The scene is small – you know, appreciate, and help each other.” 

Michael Wagener, gutleut Publishers
Books are lined up, title by title, neatly stacked, on floor to ceiling shelves. Covering the walls are many drawings, artworks and small objects. The artist Burkhard Blümlein arranged these curiosities in the apartment of Michael Wagener, which is a microcosm of Michael’s many activities. Concisely represented here is the entire bustle that makes up the artist, publisher, curator and designer. Later this year he wants to open his publishing and living spaces in Kaiserstrasse for art exhibitions. Thus reactivating the gutleut 15 exhibition space, which had to close on Gutleutstr a few years ago on. The 48year old has experienced both the rise in rent prices in Frankfurt and the lack of affordable spaces. He’s not happy about the development of the Bahnhofsviertel, where he’s lived and worked for about 20 years. You could always live well in the Bahnhofsviertel, according to Wagener, who seems to be a pretty unflappable character. The quality of life has fallen sharply: the neighborhood has become too loud and too expensive for him and most of the other 2,000 or so residents. Until recently he’s known all of his neighbors personally. It’s different now, says Wagener, and he’s thinking about leaving. What would he wish for the Bahnhofsviertel? “I wish that the diversity of the neighborhood could be preserved, there must be more cultural possibilities.
The infrastructure also leaves something to be desired, at the moment only the tourists are considered – we have 17 bakeries, but not one good supermarket.” 

This article is part of a collaboration with online magazine Freunde von Freunden.

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