Leipzig is experiencing a renaissance, as evidenced – and facilitated – by endless media reports in both the German and North American press. From Die Zeit to Gawker, Berlin – once the darling of the global alternative scene – has been declared passé; those seeking alternative arts and culture, music, and social projects are advised to travel to nearby Leipzig. The following dossier offers a snapshot of what appears to be a significant turning point for the city.
Unlike many other so-called shrinking cities of the former GDR, Leipzig has become a magnet for students, artists, entrepreneurs, corporate investors, and developers. With an abundance of affordable real estate, Leipzig still offers immense possibilities for cultural and social experimentation. Amidst this enthusiasm, however, many residents, especially those active in the city’s cultural life, voice concerns about rising rents, development and planning projects that threaten to push them out of the very spaces they have made so attractive. This, in many ways, is a familiar story, the story of gentrifying cities around the globe. But as many interviewees in the dossier will stress, while Leipzig may face similar challenges to those in myriad other urban centres, it is a unique place, with an identity and energy all its own. The case study of Leipzig offers a reminder that while all cities may gentrify, they do not necessarily do so in identical ways. In this dossier we explore some of the factors that have shaped Leipzig’s status as a contemporary cultural centre. We also explore the various reactions to urban development in progress. While affordable spaces might be disappearing, especially in the already sought-after neighbourhoods of the city, Leipzig still compares favourably with other German cities such as Hamburg or Munich and even the still relatively affordable Berlin. The march of gentrification, many interviewees argue, might not ultimately be halted, but there are still opportunities to limit and shape its effects, through interventions by municipal government, private and cultural sectors.
In the following dossier, we speak with artists, entrepreneurs, and activists to consider what makes Leipzig unique and how it has balanced its success as a ‘creative city’ with the uneven effects of gentrification.