Google scraps plans for Berlin campus after protests
BERLIN — Google has dropped plans to open a startup campus in one of the German capitals hippest neighborhoods, the search giant announced today, following years of protests against gentrification by local residents and activists.
The Mountain View, California-based company said it would hand over the site, which is located in the rapidly gentrifying Kreuzberg neighborhood, for at least five years to two local nonprofit associations.
“After all, it was a combination of concerns about rising rents, particularly in this neighborhood, and the fact that social organizations and volunteers are desperately looking for working space in Berlin that led to this decision,” Google spokesperson Ralf Bremer said.
Bremer rejected the assumption that the company bowed to vociferous protests that had broken out over its plans for the campus, amid a wider backlash against gentrification in a part of the city long associated with artists working quarters.
Instead, he said, “those who constructively participated in a dialogue” had convinced them to hand over the 3,000 square-meter space — which is owned by a real estate company and leased by Google on a long-term contract — to online donation platform betterplace as well as Karuna, an association working in drug prevention and supporting homeless people and children in need.
In 2016, Google first announced plans to convert parts of a former electric power station into a “campus” that would host, among other things, a mentoring program for local startups overseen by the tech behemoth. The company currently has six similar hubs around the world, including in London and Paris.
The decision to scrap those plans comes amid a growing global backlash against the tech companys tax practices and its use of personal data.
Bremer said Google has no plans to open a campus elsewhere in the city but stressed that the company would nonetheless continue cooperating with startups in Berlin, as it currently does through a local team of four employees.
He acknowledged that this cooperation would likely happen on a smaller scale than had been planned for the Berlin campus.