Over the coming weeks, residents of all ages, refugees living in a nearby hostel, young people from vocational projects run by KIDS & CO, pupils from local secondary schools and students at the Alice Salomon Hochschule will work together to build a picnic table that, with a length of at least 161 metres, will break the existing world record. On 18 December 2015 the table will be inaugurated with a pre-Christmas picnic. The aim of this communal project is to bring the people involved together, to promote integration and to draw attention to the neighbourhood with its social challenges.
The world record attempt is a first result of the evaluation of the residents’ survey conducted in the Boulevard Kastanienallee neighbourhood. With the support of Deutsche Wohnen and the local borough, students from the Alice Salomon Hochschule and the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences conducted interviews and held consultations with focus groups in spring 2015 in order to mobilise the interests, views and potential of residents for the benefit of their neighbourhood and to use these findings as a basis for developing new ideas.
As Juliane Witt, the local councillor with responsibility for young people, families, further education and culture, explained at the ceremony to mark the launch of the world record attempt, “From the very first day, Deutsche Wohnen has demonstrated its commitment to the borough. As a company, it takes on social responsibility, promotes togetherness in the neighbourhood and develops its housing stock sustainably. Aside from being a world record attempt, this project is all about neighbours meeting each other, enjoying the boulevard here together and getting involved personally – as is happening here today.”
With over 2,200 flats in the Boulevard Kastanienallee neighbourhood and with around 15,000 residential units in Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Deutsche Wohnen is one of the largest housing companies in the borough and has been active there since 2013. The company supports social and cultural facilities in Hellersdorf and lets commercial premises at reduced rents or rent-free to, for example, recreation centres for children and young people, neighbourhood clubs, artists and nursery schools. In addition, targeted support is given to projects and events run by charitable organisations in local neighbourhoods. For example, in September 2015 Deutsche Wohnen financed the project “Good neighbours”, which was conceived by the visual artist Renate U. Schürmeyer and the mediator Anne Haedke, and enabled the project to be realised by making premises available. The two project organisers set up a public sewing room in a commercial unit belonging to Deutsche Wohnen in the Boulevard Kastanienallee where residents and refugees could work together and sew picnic blankets. The idea behind the project was to give the participants an uncomplicated opportunity to meet and to engage in a mutual exchange of ideas and experiences. Its overall aim is to achieve a better integration of local residents and refugees.
As Stefanie Steinfurth, Regional Manager East at Deutsche Wohnen Immobilien Management GmbH, explains, „The aim of our involvement is to strengthen social cohesion and to help people to identify more with their neighbourhood. Against this background, we particularly welcome the fact that the Berlin Senate has given the Boulevard Kastanienallee the status of a neighbourhood management area in its “Social City” programme.”
Deutsche Wohnen is one of the leading publicly listed residential property companies in Germany and Europe with a business focus on managing and developing its residential property portfolio. As at 30 September 2015 the portfolio comprised 149,201 units, of which 146,999 were residential and 2,202 commercial. Deutsche Wohnen owns flats in four Berlin Modernist housing estates, which were given UNESCO world cultural heritage status in July 2008: White City, the Horseshoe Estate in Britz, the Carl Legien Estate in Prenzlauer Berg and the Ring Estate (Siemensstadt).