Architect Ludwig Wappner uses big words when he talks about the historic department store on Munich’s Bahnhofsplatz. “An icon of department store architecture” is what he calls the Hermann-Tietz-Haus on Munich’s Bahnhofsplatz, which opened in 1905, in a promotional video on a website for René Benko’s Signa Group. The Munich architectural office Allmann Wappner has planned the renovation of the listed building for Signa’s real estate division, which is already in full swing – so that, according to the previous plan, a department store can reopen there next year, this time under the name Galeria, after it had long been called Hertie and most recently Karstadt.
But nothing will come of it. On Monday, the chief representative of the insolvent Galeria group, which also belongs to the Signa empire, announced that the location at Munich Central Station would be closed, as the only one in the city. Since then, there has been a big question that is important for downtown Munich: What do you do with a department store building without a department store?
This question also arises a stone’s throw away, at the former Kaufhof am Stachus, which Signa closed last autumn. Unlike the one at the train station, this building was only rented. The owners do not yet know what will happen next and are now handing over the building for temporary use for a period of two years.
The city council faction of the ÖDP/Munich-List (ML) immediately tried to occupy the topic and called on Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) in an application to “use all planning law options to ensure that the building (…) does not degenerated into an anonymous office complex”. Reiter should also check whether there could be social housing, senior living or accommodation for refugees.
However, as things stand, that is wishful thinking. The property is within the scope of a valid development plan, which defines a “core area”. This is a category of building law that gives property owners a great deal of freedom for commercial use, but only allows a small proportion of apartments. Social requirements, such as those demanded by the ÖDP/ML, are not included in the development plan and cannot be supplemented by the city at a later date.
Since it cannot be assumed that the private company Signa will enable social uses that reduce returns without coercion, office use, as ÖDP/ML fear, is a realistic scenario for the upper floors – especially since this building has an architectural advantage over other department stores that only have windows in the front and can only be lit artificially inside the building. The Hermann-Tietz-Haus has a glass roof in the middle through which light falls inside. Retail would also be conceivable on the lower floors in the future.
Office above, shops below – Signa is already pursuing this concept behind the old building: where the dilapidated extension of what was once the second largest department store in the republic (after the Kadewe in Berlin) currently stretches between Schützenstraße and Prielmayerstraße, a new building will be built in a few years after the Plans by the architect David Chipperfield, who was recently awarded the Pritzker Prize, which extends behind the Hotel Königshof am Stachus.
But couldn’t the department store also become a hotel? Luxury category in historic walls with an urban view of the station square? This speculation is also doing the rounds in the real estate industry.
Signa keeps a low profile. “We will adapt the usage concept of the old building on Bahnhofplatz in accordance with the changed initial situation and present it promptly,” explains a spokeswoman for the upcoming replanning. However, there does not seem to be one option: that the department store does have a future, the works council of the branch intended to be closed announced on Monday that it wanted to fight for it. Signa, however, explains that the intention is to give people back “a splendid piece of architecture in downtown Munich – even without a department store at this point”. She does not respond to a question as to whether the initiative of the works council has a chance.