Packed up and gone
Glass milk bottles will rejoice with schadenfreude after learning of Tetra Pak’s fate. The Swedish-Swiss packaging giant forced the bottles into redundancy by taking their jobs and went even further by packaging orange juice, soups and all manner of other stuff too.
But now, after years of putting bottles and even tins out of business, Tetra Pak has packed up and fecked off. Hurrah!!
The Tetra Pak factory in Heiligensee has been abandoned since 2013, when the wildly successful multinational corporation decided it wasn’t bringing in enough money to justify its continued existence.
It had opened in 1980, chopping up, printing and coating untreated paper imported from Scandinavian paper mills to make the cartons familiar to breakfast tables all around the world.
Increased competition in the packaging market took its toll. It’s certainly not like people are consuming less stuff. Far from it! There’s never been more packaging clogging our lovely planet, but less of it is Tetra Pak’s packaging now.
Tetra Pak blamed the “extremely difficult” market conditions in Germany as it shut its factory in Heiligensee with the loss of 195 jobs and moved all its German production to another bigger factory it had at Limburg in Hessen.
Sales of Tetra Pak cartons fell from 7.5 billion packages a year to around 4.7 billion by the time the factory closed, the Frankfurter Rundschau reported.
The company said 3.8 billion cartons left its Heiligensee factory the year before it closed, with 60% going to other European countries and 40% for the German market.
When it came to deciding between Limburg and Heiligensee, a company spokesperson said the Heiligensee plant would need to be expanded to handle the increased production if it closed its facility in Limburg – and that just made no sense at all. Limburg was already big enough to handle it all. There were also four products being made in Limburg that were not being made anywhere else internationally.
Workers’ union Verdi said the decision to close the Heiligensee factory was “incomprehensible and unacceptable.”
I’m sure Tetra Pak, which had just explained its reasoning, was crying into its milk.
Tetra Pak moved on. The factory did not.
Berliner Immobilienmanagement GmbH (BIM), the state-owned property managers, rented the site from the owner, Christian Krawinkel, in December 2015 with a view to using it to house refugees. The city paid €5 million in rent. It housed zero refugees.
Locals kicked up a fuss – they didn’t want any refugees near their fancy lakeside homes – and as it turned out, the cost of making the Tetra Pak factory halfway habitable for humans was too high. The locals could breathe easy again.
But they may yet have new neighbors with skin tones more to their liking. In 2016, Krawinkel sold the 80,000 square-meter site, which includes the neighboring Underberg herbal liqueur factory (also abandoned) to the Berlin-based Capital Bay investment group. There were great plans to tear down the buildings and replace them with lucrative housing. (No one builds any other type of housing).
The abandoned Underberg distillery wasn’t abandoned at the time. They were still brewing up their potions in small bottles with no set date for leaving. All they’d say at the time was that the site wasn’t ideal and that they were going to leave in the med-term.
“We don’t want to drive any businesses out,” local politician Martin Lambert said at the time, while fanning flames at the factory’s door.
Krawinkel said Underberg’s contract was up in 2018, so the clock was ticking. He was optimistic, saying Berlin needs housing and that the site was ideally placed near the autobahn and Heiligensee S-Bahnhof.
Well, it’s 2023 now, Underberg is gone (they didn’t leave till 2021), and there’s still no housing on the site. What could possibly have gone wrong?
“According to unconfirmed information, the current owner, Capital Bay, wants to sell the property,” the Reinickendorf district office said in 2021. It didn’t know if it had been sold already or not. But there was to be no more planning until the ownership was cleared up.
It seems the coronavirus pandemic gave Capital Bay the heebie-jeebies – it didn’t want to be splashing out all that money on building housing if there’d be no one around to buy them.
“Our focus is not on profitability but on people,” is probably one of the best lies the investment company has on its website. “For us the most important link in the value chain are the people who use a property.”
Capital Bay wasn’t thinking much about the people when it sold the site to another developer, DLE Land Development GmbH, in December 2021. And DLE seems to have done precisely nothing with the site since.
If anyone at the hapless Reinickendorf district office is still wondering who owns it, AB can confirm there’s a racoon living on the site now and possibly some boars. If not boars, there are definitely some other large-sounding animals among the trees. Maybe lions?
If possession is nine tenths of the law, then it’s clear that the Tetra Pak and Underberg factories now belong to the racoon and the boars or the lions. The boars might be masquerading as lions or the lions might be masquerading as boars but whatever is going on, it’s clear they have other priorities. Neither they nor the racoon have any plans to build any housing on the site either.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Abandoned Tetra Pak factory (and bonus abandoned Underberg distillery)
- Where: Hennigsdorfer Straße 159, 165 and 167, Heiligensee, 13503 Berlin.
- How to get there: Heiligensee S-Bahnhof is a short walk away. You’ll need to get the S25 to reach it.
- Getting in: It’s possible to enter the site quite easily from the Aldi beside it. There are also holes in the fence near the official entrance.
- When to go: Daytime is best if you want to see the place. It would be a good place for parties but the locals – yes, the same people who don’t like refugees – will call the police if they hear any noise. So, unless you’re planning a silent disco, it’s best to party somewhere else.
- Difficulty rating: 1/10. Very easy.
- Who to bring: Bring someone who speaks racoonish, boarish or lionish in case you need to negotiate with the new owners.
- What to bring: Bring a torch for dark corners, your camera, some conveniently packed drinks, and some snacks. There’s a Späti near the S-Bahnhof but that’s abandoned too. Heiligensee is a really happening place.
- Dangers: Boars, lions, racoons. There are some holes in the ground and places where you can break a leg or an ankle if you don’t look where you’re walking. But that’s life – you should always look where you’re walking. It is possible to get to the roof quite easily using the stairs at the back, but be very careful here as it’s not secure and there are places where you can break through. You’re better off staying away from the roof. There’s not much to see there anyway. And keep an eye out for the trigger-happy nosy neighbors.
Many thanks once again to the overworked Mark Rodden for proofreading, and to [name withheld] for the tip!
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