REINVENTION OR REGENERATION, THE INTENTION IS TO SOLVE HOUSING SHORTAGE IN BERLIN, LONDON
BY Zoe Phoon
German budget retailer and grocer Aldi is the latest in Europe to build new supermarket rental flats above its stores in Berlin to address the dearth of housing.
The mixed-use real estate will be rolled out in at least 30 locations initially in response to rapid population growth and increased demand for affordable housing, the London Evening Standard reported.
Rents in Berlin, especially East Berlin, have risen as much as 10% each year due to high migration and lack of new house building.
City officials said Berlin will need 194,000 new homes by 2030 to cope with a projected population increase to four million from 3.5 million.
Another 15 locations for supermarkets/apartments in the city are now in planning with Aldi working with the Berlin state government.
Aldi hopes to support its rollout of larger stores offering a wider range of products with demand for its groceries higher if there are people living onsite.
Aldi is not the first supermarket to invest in onsite housing such as no-frills flats.
Britain’s biggest supermarkets are already diversifying into property to build thousands of new homes at sites across London.
But these are not no-frills dwellings. Some have spectacular gardens above new supermarkets next to glamorous apartment blocks where homes are now for sale.
Another live-above-the-shop development comprises new flats, sports facilities and a Tesco Extra supermarket.
Desperate to unlock land for house building, city planners are encouraging supermarkets to reinvent lowrise stores where space is going to waste anyway.
Britain needs at least 230,000 new homes each year to make up for the current deficit.
So far, Tesco in London has built homes in Woolwich and Streatham and is building another development in Hackney.
Sainsbury has new supermarkets with rooftop gardens next to new build homes in Fulham and Nine Elms while Morrisons is set to build 700 homes at its Chalk Farm site in Camden.
For supermarkets, such developments boost profits at a time of intense competition and changes due to internet shopping.
Ways to make above-store building cost effective include prefabricated homes.
A development consultant said mixing supermarkets with housing is efficient use of land and can create a new neighbourhood hub in areas that need regeneration.
But careful design is needed, including creative landscaping and appealing public spaces, to protect residents from noise, smells from waste storage, disruption of night-time deliveries and the bustle of everyday operations.
In fact, living above the shop is not something new. In some ways, the supermarket sweep is a large-scale reinvention of the traditional high street which has shops at street level and homes above.
Also thinking of entering the above-store living fray are highend department store chain John Lewis and major multinational retailer Marks & Spencer.
Others such as owners of industrial land and warehouse distribution centres are even studying the feasibility of “sheds and beds”.
The intention is to develop industrial premises and high density housing for “mixing homes and jobs”.