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Upgrading Old Housing Areas in East German Inner Cities - Processes and Development Paths in Leipzig

Karin Wiest und Romy Zischner

Upgrading Old Housing Areas in East German Inner Cities - Processes and Development Paths in Leipzig

1. Upgrading under Specific Conditions
2. Innovation Media
3. Social Upgrading in Leipzigs Gründerzeit Neighbourhoods
    3.1 Invasion and Succession in Edge-of-Centre Gründerzeit Neighbourhoods - A Longitudinal Study
    3.2 Development Path in Leipzig-Connewitz: From "Autonomous Zone" to Alternative Graduate Quarter
4. Summary and Prospects


This article deals with upgrading in old housing areas in East Germany from the mid-1990s. Taking societal, economic, and demographic conditions into consideration, it examines the applicability of gentrification research approaches to the situation in the new federal states with reference to four Leipzig neighbourhoods. The diverging paths of socio-structural change in three edge-of-centre old housing areas is traced over a period of eight years. A further case study addresses the interplay between different, successive events like squatting, local government measures, and legend formation as an individual development path. Despite differences in the course these processes have taken, the trend towards the revitalisation of old housing neighbourhoods in East German cities through the arrival of younger, better educated households permits certain generalisations: where the pioneering phase is relatively intense, neighbourhoods rarely attain complete "gentrification." The structural setting suggests that even in the longer term, upgrading will proceed with less intensity while differences in growth and decline in the urban area are likely to grow.

Since about the end of the 1990s, the population has increased considerably in many of the extensively rehabilitated East German old housing areas depopulated by outmigration (cf. Hill/Wiest 2004, 364 f.). This makes the issue of gentrification all the more relevant. Gentrification refers to neighbourhood upgrading through the influx of better educated, better-off strata into devalued areas of old housing. It is accompanied by the displacement of the old-established, generally less well-off residents, by physical renewal, and by a cultural revaluation of urban spaces (cf. Helbrecht 1996, 2; Hamnett 1984, 284). In contrast to the little attention shown by researchers to such social restructuring in West German cities, the issue is under intensive discussion in East German communities (cf. Bernt/Holm 2002; Glatter 2005; Hill/Wiest 2004 among others). The interest, as well as most of the uncertainty in dealing with gentrification lies in the specific societal, economic, and demographic conditions under which urban development operates in the new federal states and in the fact that the social upgrading of deteriorated urban spaces is not regarded as a self-evident phenomenon in that part of the country.


1. Upgrading under Specific Conditions

Given the development of a market economy-type of housing system, deteriorated historical building stock, a generally strong demand for better equipped dwellings, the restitution of expropriated real estate, and the concomitant mobilisation of rehabilitation capital, it was still assumed in the 1990s that that gentrification processes were taking place in East German cities on the West German pattern (cf. Friedrichs/Kahl 1991, 191 f. among others). Only a few years later, this assumption was to prove much less tenable. Although physical upgrading - encouraged chiefly by subsidies and tax write-offs (cf. Friedrichs/Häußermann 2001, 322; Holm/Zunzer 2000, 34) - was very soon in evidence, there was far less sign of any influx of young, better educated and/or higher income households into rehabilitated old housing stock. The socio-economic structures in the cities of the new federal states play a particularly important role in this context; they do much to determine demand for high-quality housing close to the city centre. The limited demand for comfortable, centrally located housing has been explained (cf. Friedrich 2000, 39) as resulting from the low proportion of better paid jobs in the tertiary sector compared with West German cities - mainly owing to deindustrialisation - higher unemployment, and to "not yet differentiated life-stylisation" (Marschner 2000, 12). At the same time, many potential agents of gentrification left East German cities for economically more stable regions of West Germany owing to the critical labour market situation (cf. Friedrichs/Häußermann 2001, 324 f.). East German housing markets have also been influenced by socio-spatial differentiation. Whereas in West Germany, the upgrading of old housing stock in inner urban core was driven by increasing prices and a scarcity of building land for new developments on the urban fringe and in surrounding areas (cf. Wießner 1997, 197), subsidy-driven new developments in East Germany, especially in the environs of larger cities, coincided with a strong demand for modern dwellings and home ownership, hence favouring suburbanisation (cf. Friedrichs/Häußermann 2001, 322, 333, among others). The physical upgrading of old housing stock having been slow to start in the early 1990s - retarded initially by restitution claims - (cf. Reimann 2000, 40 ff.) many owners sold their properties in the course of the 1990s to real estate operators from elsewhere. The pressure for economic exploitation grew with the number of changes in ownership. For this and other reasons, supply-side conditions in the new federal states encouraged upgrading in the hope of good returns (cf. Glatter/Killisch 2004, 46). At the same time, however, the housing glut and the economic situation of the resident population considerably limited the chances of renting or selling these properties profitably. Displacement of the established population under pressure from investors or exploding rents has therefore largely failed to take place. The housing surplus that had increased strongly by the end of the 1990s coupled with the demographically driven decline in demand produced a "tenants' market" - the essential setting for urban development in the new federal states.


2. Research: Status and Deficiencies

A considerable number of empirical studies are now available on the question whether the physical, functional, and social changes that have taken place in East German old housing areas since the beginning of the 1990s can be described as gentrification. They soon reveal that the dimensions of research into gentrification in East Germany depend heavily on the time point of the study and on regional and local factors. In terms of their findings, the studies can be classified under three headings (cf. Zischner 2003, 26 ff.):


Figure 1: Structural Framework Conditions in the New State and Gentrification

Source: after Zischner (2003, 33).

Group I - Almost exclusive concentration on physical upgrading
This groups includes a study on socio-spatial differentiation in Magdeburg (Harth et al. 1996) and an analysis of developments in a mixed-use Gründerzeit (late 19 th century) area close to the Leipzig city centre (Denzer/Heydenreich 2002). Both studies come to the conclusion that there can be no real question of gentrification. Transformation-related explanations like general urban renewal are judged to be more instructive about change in centrally located old housing neighbourhoods than demand-oriented approaches in gentrification theory. Writing about Magdeburg , Harth et al (1996) refer to "split gentrification" (p. 191): revaluation in the city's potential upgrading areas was initiated by private investors and municipal planning authorities and not by "new" demanders with a predilection for urban living.

Group II - Beginnings of social upgrading apparent
The studies in this group are based on data collected mainly between 1993 and 1995. In contrast to group I, they register not only physical upgrading components but also the beginnings of social upgrading through the influx of younger, better educated, or higher-income households. Examples include studies on the East Berlin district Prenzlauer Berg (Stark 1997), on the Andreasviertel district in Erfurt (Weiske 1996), and a study from the mid-1990s on edge-of-centre old housing areas in Leipzig (Wiest 1997).

Group III - Marked physical, social, and functional upgrading identifiable
These studies dating from about 2000 onwards record not only physical and functional changes but also far-reaching exchange processes in the local population and a disproportionately high increase in young, highly educated households. Examples are a study on the Paulusviertel neighbourhood in Halle/Saale (Friedrich 2000), other studies on Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin (Bernt/Holm 2002; Häußermann/Kapphan 2000; Häußermann et al. 2002), studies of developments in Dresden Neustadt (Glatter/Killisch 2004), in Leipzig Gründerzeit neighbourhoods (Hill/Wiest 2004; Zischner 2003), and a study on the Spandauer/Rosenthaler Vorstadt district in East Berlin (Krajewski 2004).

A striking amount of attention is paid to the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, a neighbourhood much in view owing to its location in the capital, its history, and the vicinity of former West Berlin districts. These preconditions make any generalisation from upgrading in Prenzlauer Berg to developments in East Germany somewhat problematic. A general methodological and conceptual deficiency of the case studies is the use of time-point data on social structures, which give very limited insight into the actual path of social exchange processes. Although the use of official statistics, in contrast, can reveal changes over time in specific social structure characteristics (e.g., age, unemployment figures) within administrative units, more complex social situations in sub-areas unrelated to administrative boundaries cannot be captured. It is striking that qualitative and interpretative research methods were hardly employed at all. At the same time, many more recent studies have pointed out the importance of socially communicated, symbolic aspects for the valorisation of urban spaces. In-depth analysis of this complex is generally still lacking. Other characteristics of studies in the German-speaking area are the continued, strong orientation on general models and the predominant description of physical, functional, and social-structural change in neighbourhoods with reference to the multi-dimensional nature of the process. However, the analytical challenge posed by multi-dimensionality as an economic, social, cultural, and political explanatory context embracing the whole of society is seldom treated as a theoretical problem - an almost impossible task for empirical studies. The analysis of individual gentrification processes embedded in a local and national societal context could show a way out of the jungle of definitions and approaches. It might also make it possible to free research a little from the quest for self-sufficient concepts and from the question of their applicability to developments in East Germany, as Marchner demands with his call for an "open gentrification concept" (2000, 25), and Ley (1996) or Lees (2000) with a proposed "geography of gentrification." Gentrification research would accordingly be seen as a vehicle for attaining a new understanding of urban restructuring as an expression of social conditions in post-industrial societies (cf. Ley 1980).

We now turn to two empirical studies conducted in different, mostly Gründerzeit residential neighbourhoods in Leipzig. They focus on the course taken by upgrading processes and on the individuality of these processes. On this basis, an attempt is made to fill certain research gaps.

  • To ascertain the temporal course of social upgrading in the urban area, changes in the population of three centrally located old housing neighbourhoods are described on the basis of empirical surveys from 1994 to 2002 (section 3.1). This is followed by presentation of another case example focusing on the interplay between different, successive events from the late 1980s onwards: squatting, local authority measures, and legend formation. The particular effects of these events on the upgrading of an urban sub-area is then considered in the form of an individual development path (section 3.2).
  • To permit comparison of the findings with those of other (West) German studies, reference is made to common classifications which are taken as a basis in the context of the invasion succession model. This model describes upgrading by examining development of the proportion of the local population in "pioneer" and "gentrifier" households as agents of gentrification (cf. Dangschat 1988, 280 f.). Among the criticism levelled at this description is that it reduces the nature of social exchange processes in urban neighbourhoods to the image of ideal-typical "pioneers" and "gentrifiers," disregarding many other agents that may be more important. At the same time, the societal, economic, and political background to the valorisation of inner-city spaces remains largely unexplained (cf. Helbrecht 1996, 4). Nevertheless, descriptive stage-models offer a small common denominator for many studies and a point of departure for comparing empirical findings from West and East Germany.
  • The difficulties that the classical definition of the subject matter of gentrification research pose are addressed in the Connewitz case study in discussion of the extent to which social upgrading in East Germany cities is linked to proximity to the city centre and to imposing, historical building stock. Studies from the English-speaking world use a broader research definition. Gentrification is increasingly registered in locations more distant from the city centre and in less distinguished physical contexts (Wyly/Hammel 1999; Hackworth 2002) or rural communities (Phillips 2002).

3. Social Upgrading in Leipzig's Gründerzeit Neighbourhoods

Since the 1930s, when its population peaked at about 700,000, Leipzig has been repeatedly hit by demographic and economic shrinkage. Over this period it has lost about one third of its residents. The main causes have been the city's declining importance after the war, growing environmental pollution, and the increasing loss of image for the region under the German Democratic Republic regime, and, at a later date, deindustrialisation and outmigration after reunification (cf. Peter 2003, 64). Often described as a boomtown in the early 1990s owing to heavy investment, Leipzig was only a few years later to make the headlines as the "capital of housing vacancies." Since 1998, inmigration has stabilised population development to a certain degree, (still) managing to compensate the birth deficit. After 2010, however, the population is expected to fall again (cf. Stadt Leipzig 2002). The local housing market, at any rate, is a "tenants' market," typical of shrinking cities with a considerable housing surplus. Socio-spatial differentiation in the city has been growing since the late 1990s. For about the same period, the image of centrally located Gründerzeit neighbourhoods has been undergoing a change, reflected not least of all in a marked rise in population. These developments are to be examined on the basis of changes in social structure since the mid-1990s in three edge-of-centre old housing areas (Waldstraßenviertel, Südvorstadt and Neustädter Markt) (section 3.1). The path-dependency of an individual "neighbourhood career" is then described on the basis of the interplay between specific local and socio-political factors for the somewhat more outlying Connewitz district (1) (section 3.2).


3.1 Invasion and Succession in Edge-of-Centre Gründerzeit Neighbourhoods - A Longitudinal Study

In order to trace the process of change in the composition of the population since the mid-1990s, social structure data are used that was collected on three edge-of-centre neighbourhoods in Leipzig in 1994, 2000, and 2002 (2) in the course of a household survey. The areas are all located between one and two kilometres away from the city centre. The physical structure is predominantly closed perimeter block development from the last quarter of the 19 th century . The following specific features should be stressed:

1. The Neustädter Markt/Volkmarsdorf area to the east of the city centre had suffered high vacancies even in the early 1990s. The neighbourhood had been rapidly and simply developed during industrialisation to accommodate inmigrating labour. In the GDR, plans for demolishing the areas were not put into effect. In 1992, the area was the first in Leipzig to be designated an urban renewal area, and since 1999 it has been part of the "Socially Integrative City" programme area.

2. The inner Südvorstadt neighbourhood is characterised by extremely imposing buildings and classical perimeter block development. The southern part has been an urban renewal area since 1994. Important factors are its proximity to the universities and the green axis of the city, and the many pubs and restaurants that have established themselves there since the early 1990s.

3. The Waldstraßenviertel area west of the city centre is close to inner-city green spaces and has particularly imposing, closed development. The area has become well known and has enhanced its image through its status as an assisted area for historic landmark conservation. Until the mid-1990s, residents, the media, and local planners assumed that the neighbourhood would rapidly come under investment pressure.

Far-reaching mobility processes since 1990 have drastically changed the social composition of the population in all three neighbourhoods. Owing to the departure of older residents and a strong influx of younger households, the average age has fallen from 48 to 39. This is reflected in a quadrupling of the share of student households from about 5 per cent in 1994 to 22 per cent in 2002. Extremely differentiated developments are also apparent in individual areas that increasingly determine how the neighbourhoods are perceived in Leipzig. In-depth interviews with residents who had moved into the study areas since the mid-1990s show that there is widespread public agreement about the areas in question in the sense of stereotypes that have themselves become a factor for change. Respondents regarded the Waldstraßen neighbourhood primarily as a quiet, "sedate" residential area for high-income, successful social strata. The Südvorstadt, in contrast, was generally considered a particularly lively, "in" neighbourhood "where life is exciting, where people are more unconventional, more tolerant, more open-minded, more flexible … " (47-year-old project developer).

In strong contrast, the Neustädter Markt/Volkmarsdorf neighbourhood is considered not so much a renewal area as a deprived one: "As you know, there's a high proportion of foreigners living there, and high crime rates … but I'm firmly convinced it'll become a very nice neighbourhood" (student, 27). At the same time, interviews revealed that in some cases the prevailing social and physical problems were taken as a special challenge and an opportunity for personal "pioneering" action.

Invasion succession models, however problematic they may be, are useful in comparing the considerable population fluctuation in East German old housing areas since the early 1990s with gentrification processes in West German cities. In many empirical studies, the proportion of "pioneers" and "gentrifiers" (classified in terms of age, household type, qualifications, and income; see table 1) serves as an indicator for the gentrification of a neighbourhood. The social structure data collected was therefore deliberately categorised in terms of ideal-typical pioneers and gentrifiers (table 1), as was done in some studies from the 1980s and 1990s, supplemented by the contrasting control group of "deprived households" (3) (see figure 2).


Table 1: Percentages and Classification of Gentrifiers and Pioneers in Gentrification Studies

Sources: Blasius (1993); Friedrichs/Kecskes (eds.) (1996); Dangschat/Friedrichs (1988); Schneider (1998); Harth et al. (1996). * Dates refer to the time point of empirical survey. ** Households without children.

Table 1 reflects the problems of quantifying gentrifier and pioneer households. Comparing findings is made more difficult, for instance, by not completely standard socio-cultural classifications, varying sizes of study areas, and the selection of the parent population. Even slight changes in class boundaries, such as including households with children ("family gentrifiers"), considerable increases the proportion of gentrifiers in the Leipzig study areas.

On the other hand, the studies seem to indicate that socio-structural composition is very similar in West and East German case examples.

Comparison of social composition in the three Leipzig neighbourhoods (figure 2) shows that, in 1994, the share of households classified as gentrifiers was at most three per cent, while "pioneers" represented about six per cent of households. At that time the population structure was still strongly dominated by families and older residents. Eight years later, marked changes were in evidence. The share of pioneer households, ranging between 19 per cent (Neustädter Markt) and 27 per cent (Südvorstadt) sometimes even exceeded those recorded by comparable studies of West German edge-of-centre areas (table 1).


Figure 2: Percentages of pioneer, gentrifier, and deprived household in three Leipzig edge-of-centre areas 1994 and 2002 (classification see table 1)

Sources: IfL 2006, Inhalt: K. Wiest, A. Hill; Grafik: P. Mund

In contrast, the share of gentrifier households tends to be somewhat lower than in comparable West German studies. This may also be due to the still early stage of gentrification. But a more detailed analysis shows that not only the younger, well-educated and well-earning one and two-person households without children categorised as gentrifiers must be considered neighbourhood upgrading agents but also younger couples or young families with a high level of education but few financial resources. This raises the question whether, in a tenants' market and in contrast to prosperous city regions, households with limited economic scope such as families can play an increasing role as demanders in centrally located urban areas - a group who, under more restrictive conditions, would have to move to the city outskirts or elsewhere. This would be in keeping with the finding that the gentrification cycle in one of the study areas (Waldstraßenviertel) displays a reverse trend. After an increased influx of higher-income households, this inmigration group has been exceeded in numbers since 2000 by younger demanders with lower incomes but a good education, mainly flat-sharing student households. This development, in which pioneers are not displaced but strengthen their positions as invaders vis-à-vis gentrifier households, is essentially attributable to the prevailing tenant market conditions and to the abundant, physically high-quality Gründerzeit housing stock in Leipzig. In the Neustädter Markt neighbourhood, in contrast, the increasing weight of both younger, better educated households and of economically deprived households indicates social polarisation rather than social upgrading.

At this point a look at social structures in Leipzig is necessary. They owe their origins partly to the GDR past, partly to the specific economic and societal conditions in the region, and have a decisive influence on the demand for edge-of-centre housing. It has been repeatedly stressed that the so-called new household types, whose representatives are claimed to prefer urban living, constitute only a small proportion of urban population in East Germany (cf. Harth et al. 1996). But the establishment of a comparatively mobile population with a strong preference for centrally located old housing areas in recent years - at least in Leipzig, is revealed by the stated reasons for moving to the neighbourhoods under study. Between 1998 and 2002, in the space of only for years, over 60 per cent of the present population moved into the study areas from other parts of Leipzig or elsewhere. Most, on average 60 per cent, stated that their reasons for moving to these neighbourhoods were urban locational advantages such as proximity to the city centre, accessibility of cultural facilities, pubs and restaurants, closeness to university and place of work, and the special flair, the Gründerzeit ambience and the particularly positive image of the neighbourhoods (cf. Wiest/Hill 2004, 371). This also shows that many households decide to move into or out of an area, especially when a tenants' market prevails, not mainly for economic reasons but because of soft factors, normative and cultural value attitudes.

Moreover, changes in social structure in the three edge-of-centre neighbourhoods already suggest that different social groups within the same city can initiate local area upgrading, which ultimately pursues its own path (cf. Lees 2000, 396 f.). Much more promising than concentrating on ideal-typical gentrifiers is therefore to examine the specificities of change in edge-of-centre areas, with the aim of discovering the specific local causes of upgrading and throwing light on the overarching societal context. We illustrate particularities of this sort with a look at the Connewitz district in Leipzig.


3.2 Development Path in Leipzig-Connewitz: From "Autonomous Zone" to Alternative Graduate Quarter

The case example shows that upgrading occurs not only in urban areas with imposing, historical building stock and abutting the city centre. A decisive role is played by complex interaction between a number of factors, including certain infrastructural conditions (e.g., innovative, [sub]cultural facilities, universities), specific legend formation or image building, as well as local authority policy decisions. Not every centrally located old housing area in larger East German cities offers the appropriate, complex set of characteristics prerequisite for upgrading. It should also be remembered that these local factors are embedded in the overall socio-economic context, which in the case of the new federal states tends to hamper rather than help gentrification (cf. figure 3).

The Connewitz study area is part of the southern Leipzig suburb of the same name. Owing to good access to the city centre, for example by public transport (a 10 to 15 minute ride), the area can be said to be relatively close to the inner city. There is also a range of university institutions (4) in the immediate vicinity or close by. The adjacent district of Südvorstadt (cf. section 3.1) with its restaurants and pubs, still closer to the inner city, is also to be regarded as an important locational factor. For the most part, the neighbourhood under study has plain Gründerzeit perimeter block development, supplemented here and there by imposing, sometimes villa-like, detached Gründerzeit buildings, prefabricated housing blocks, and new buildings dating from after 1990.

Squats and "subcultures" as a foundation for upgrading
In the GDR, Connewitz was among the first areas in Leipzig designated for "complex reconstruction." In the GDR, this term denoted a policy including comprehensive demolition and prefabricated housing construction. This prospect induced heavy outmigration from Connewitz, especially during the 1970s and 1980s - one of the main reasons why it become one of the Leipzig districts most strongly affected by the squatting in officially vacated buildings that was typical of the expiring GDR.

In the course of socio-political upheaval, buildings in Connewitz were temporarily occupied by squatters in the spring of 1990, partly to prevent large-scale demolition of the historical building stock (cf. Rink 2000; Zischner 2003, 47 f., and others). Squats concentrated primarily in a triangular area known as the "Connewitz Bermuda Triangle" (cf. Jungle World of 21 January 2001). This name, still used by residents as a synonym for Connewitz, localised the notions of autonomy and freedom from the law cherished by leftwing punks and "antifascists." In response to the street battle on November 1992 and the attention it attracted in the media, the local authorities proclaimed the "Leipzig line," which provided for immediate evacuation of the occupied buildings in combination with tenancy agreements and cooperation with squatters. Squatting is now a thing of the past in Connewitz. But it did set the course for development of the residential neighbourhood and still contributes to the image of the area. The neighbourhood continues to catch media attention with the occasional riot and demonstration. This helps maintain the myth of being an outlaw area and attracts people to Connewitz in search of alternative lifestyles.

Characteristic of the neighbourhood is the well-developed alternative and cultural scene. Three "autonomous," non-commercial cultural centres popular well beyond the district are to be found in Connewitz.(5) This is one reason why the neighbourhood has the reputation of being an "island of dissent." We suggest that precisely this aspect has provided the decisive basis for social upgrading in the residential area. Comparable neighbourhood careers are recorded in West German studies, for instance Hamburg - St. Pauli (cf. Dangschat/Friedrichs 1988) and Berlin - Kreuzberg (cf. Lang 1998, 130).

Socio-structural and socio-cultural character
Far-reaching rehabilitation has brought striking changes to the population structure of Connewitz since the 1990s. A household survey (6) in 2002/03 showed a higher proportion of young adults with very advanced professional qualifications or aspiring to university degrees than in the city as a whole (see table 2). 49 per cent of residents were between 21 and 30 years of age, 13 per cent higher than the average for the city (cf. Zischner 2003, 79 f.). A high percentage of residents who had arrived since the mid-1990s can be counted among what the literature describes as "pioneers" on account of their comparatively high educational qualifications and their household form (e.g., flat-sharing) (see table 1). No striking increase in the number of high-income households in the study area was yet in evidence. On the contrary, the high proportion of children under 11 (14 per cent) indicates that young families were an important group of residents and that they were important potential agents of neighbourhood upgrading - which suggests that the classical definition of gentrifiers (see table 1 and section 3.1) is not very instructive when it comes to explaining local upgrading.


Table 2: Occupational Qualifications of Residents in Connewitz and Leipzig as a Whole

Vocational qualifications

Study area Percentage (number)

Leipzig – Total (2001)* Percentage

Without qualifications

34% (134)**


Apprenticeship training (or comparable)

18% (73)


Vocational school qualifications / master craftsman (or comp.)

9% (37)


University degree / doctorate

22% (86)


Not specified

17% (67)



100% (397)


Source: Zischner (2003, 81); Stadt Leipzig (2002, 73).

The residents survey also showed that the consumer and recreational behaviour of the new residents is in keeping with the gentrification lifestyles described in the literature (cf. Blasius 1993). It includes the frequentation of (scene) pubs, bars, restaurants, (sub)cultural facilities, galleries, organic shops, wine stores, and/or delicatessens (cf Zischner 2003, 93 ff.). Housing preferences relevant to gentrification, on the contrary, like a partiality for historically valuable and prestigious accommodation, are not marked. It is likely that the inmigrating potential agents of social upgrading in the study area consider participation in an "alternative way of life" (even if this is to some extent reflected only in the location of the dwelling) to be more important than manifesting social status in, for instance, their choice of building and home furnishings. Rink points out that younger people in Connewitz appear primarily to seek integration into subcultural or alternative milieus (2002, 90).

The zest for life perceived in Connewitz is clearly a major reason for the influx of younger households. This confirms aspects of the demand-oriented approach to explaining gentrification for the area under study (cf. Blasius 1993; Dangschat 1988; Ley 1980). Part of the lifestyle of the newly arrived, potential agents of neighbourhood upgrading is to distance themselves from conspicuous consumption and the social establishment. This can be demonstrated by having an address in a neighbourhood reputed to be "alternative" and "wild." Nevertheless, refuge is willingly taken in islands of prosperity, for example Italian delicatessens, organic food home deliveries, or expensive scene restaurants (e.g., in Südvorstadt). Gentrification agents in the study area exude an air of alternative lifestyle, inadvertently lending the entire neighbourhood a new, very tenuous yuppie touch.

Gentrification in Connewitz?
As we have seen, even in a Gründerzeit residential area not predestined for gentrification, a form of upgrading that comes close to gentrification can set in. In the case of Connewitz, the main factors driving this development have been the alternative and (sub)cultural character of the neighbourhood and its image and flair. Explanations that attribute gentrification to anticipated increases in property prices have limited relevance under the current tenant market conditions prevailing in East German cities. When cities are shrinking, the great potential offered by underused inner-city sites and the housing glut make it difficult to explain upgrading solely in terms of rent-gap or value-gap theory (cf. figure 3). More important is tax-relief-induced investment. However, this has been provided with no regard to location and therefore displays no spatial concentration (cf. Bernt/Holm 2002, 134 f.). Moreover, the findings show that upgrading is not prevented by the current framework conditions in the new federal states but merely weakened in intensity.


Figure 3: Ideal-Typical Course of Gentrification and Development Path in Leipzig-Connewitz

Source: Zischner (2003, 130).

Progressive social upgrading appears to be quite probable in Connewitz. This can be argued principally on the grounds of increasing population density in the most attractive residential neighbourhoods of Leipzig and the stabilisation of the study area mainly through the influx of young people undergoing education, a low rate of outmigration, and the potential transition of established pioneers to more secure life situations (e.g., gentrifiers), when, for instance they enter working life after completing their studies. Connewitz also continues to benefit from the halo effect of the adjacent Südvorstadt, where there are already market bottlenecks in certain segments of the housing market. Considering the general housing-market and economic situation in the region, however, it seems unlikely in the longer term that Connewitz pioneers will be displaced by higher-income households.


4. Summary and Prospects

This article has sought an answer to the question what social exchange processes characterise urban neighbourhoods in the new federal states, and whether they can justifiably be described in terms of gentrification. The case examples presented show considerable breadth in the form of social revalorisation in the Gründerzeit belt of Leipzig; they indicate "that place, or more accurately peopleŽs perception of place matters a lot" (Butler 1997, 152). The article is hence also a plea for an understanding of individual upgrading processes that are embedded in the given local and societal context.

At the same time, the study of neighbourhood careers, however differently they may have run, permits certain general conclusions about urban development in the new federal states. At the macro level, demographic and economic conditions are likely to weaken the course of social upgrading in the longer term. The pioneering phase was relatively vigorous, but the neighbourhoods in question are very unlikely to achieve complete upgrading. Bernt and Holm (2002, 146 f.), writing about upgrading in the East Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg, note delayed transition from the pioneer phase to the gentrification phase. Glatter and Killisch (2004) show that upgrading in the Dresden neighbourhood Äußere Neustadt has followed a pattern of gentrification under low upgrading pressure. Long-term arguments against displacement through gentrification in a tenants' market are the wide range of housing available in East German cities, which markedly reduces the pressure of demand on specific old housing neighbourhoods and keeps economic access barriers comparatively low, as well as comparatively low purchasing power and the small number of households with above average incomes.

The trend towards revitalisation of East German old housing areas through investment in the building stock and inmigration gives cause for hope for urban development in shrinking cities. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether these advantages can persist in the long run without generating disadvantages such as displacement and social exclusion. Local planning policy faces the difficult task of strengthening endogenous potentials through reurbanisation strategies without simultaneously widening gaps between growth and decline in the urban core.



(1) Findings of a diploma thesis (cf. Zischner 2003). (back)

(2) For data from 1994 see Wiest (1997). The data from 2002 was collected in the context of the project "Segregation and Gentrification in the Shrinking City" project sponsored by the German Research Association (DFG) on similar lines to the predecessor study. With a sample of N=298 in the Waldstraßenviertel, N=320 in the Südvorstadt, and N=230 in Neustädter Markt, an average of 9 per cent of all households in the areas under study were covered. (back)

(3) Deprived households were defined as follows: households containing persons between the ages of 18 and 65 in which the head of household is unemployed, regardless of qualifications or income, and households containing persons of employable age that have a net disposable household income of under € 500 (single-person household), € 1000 (2 and 3 person households) or € 1500 (4-person households and larger). (back)

(4) The University of Leipzig, the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences, and the Deutsche Telekom University of Applied Sciences. (back)

(5) "Werk II - Kulturfabrik Leipzig", "Conne Island" and "Zoro Leipzig". (back)

(6) Between November 2002 and January 2003, 183 households in Gründerzeit residential buildings of the area under study were questioned in a study for a diploma thesis (cf. Zischner 2003). (back)



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 Zeitungsartikel: Leipziger Volkszeitung/LVZ vom 31.01.2005, 11: "Wieder Randale in Connewitz".; LVZ-online vom 03.10.2004: "Linke Krawalle verhindern Neonazi-Demo in Leipzig".; Jungle World vom 21.01.2001: "Bermuda-Dreieck Ost". (back)

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