Workers at a radical Berlin bar are heading to London on December 18th to confront Pears Global, part of a shadowy property giant which has been hiking rents in Neukölln.
One of Berlin’s 12 major boroughs and historically one of the city’s most multicultural areas, Neukölln has been on Germany’s gentrification frontline for the last ten years with rents increasing by an average of 154% since 2007.
The changes have torn up much of the area’s local culture and pushed many of its working class residents out, with major firms buying up vast areas of real estate — including Pears Global, a firm so secretive its ultimate “patriarch” Mark Pears refused to even give a picture of himself to the Telegraph when it did a fawning bio on him in 2011 (though has since put his mugshot up on family aggrandising project the Pears Foundation). Both his multi-billion-pound empire and the foundation are based at 2 Brewery Mews, a tiny building based out in West Hampsted which you can’t even get at with Google Streetview.
The firm, listed as “investment advisors” to William Pears which is thought to control £6 billion of property — around 15,000 units including The Spire Shopping Centre in London — is part of a labyrinth of property shells each of which claim relative penury and pay minimal tax. Pears Global itself, which is registered on the ground floor at 30 City Road in London (and “independently audited” by a firm also based on the ground floor of 30 City Road) claims an annual profit for the year of just £307,000. The group is thought to run up to 6,200 apartments in Berlin through such “letterbox companies”.
And the “small” firm is overseeing significant change in Neukölln, including the eviction of Syndikat, a local pub collective which has been a mainstay of the area for nearly 33 years and was recently served an eviction notice for the end of December.
Syndikat however is not taking the notice lying down. The radical hub, run as an emancipatory meeting place, deeply rooted in the community, is heading to London on December 18th to confront Pears at its real operational HQ at 33 Cavendish Square. The rally, starting at 3pm, aims to both put pressure on the elusive firm and build links with people facing similar pressures in Britain. Organisers said:
People from Syndikat have travelled across Europe piecing together clues, from empty shell companies in Luxembourg, through luxury new developments in Copenhagen, to a finally find out that they are owned by the secretive British billionaire property moguls Pears Family, who are buying up huge swathes of Berlin and other European cities.
In recent weeks we have received dozens of emails from tenants who have also had troubles with Pears as a landlord. We have done several actions including a rally in front of the Pears Office in Berlin. We are working on a documentary about our fight against pears that we will publish in Germany and England. Now we want to go one step further. In the week before Christmas some people want to travel and do an action in London. And we will need your help and solidarity.
Talking about the situation they and many others are facing in Berlin at the moment the group, who have seen widespread support for their campaign, said:
We should disappear, like so many other pubs, cafes and shop projects in Schillerkiez (and the rest of Berlin) — because we are not profitable enough for the shareholders of the GmbHs, conglomerates, and tax haven shell companies that own our buildings. We should disappear, not because our presence in our house and neighbourhood is disruptive, but because of the profiteering of our landlords, who probably only know of this building and neighbourhood from photographs.
This situation is just one of many proofs that the current ruling regime sees the needs of those who work and live in these investor targeted neighbourhoods as irrelevant. Not everybody in the neighbourhood needs to be a Syndikat fan, or a regular visitor – but there are enough who are. But it is not only our situation, but that of the neighbourhood in general that raises the question,
„Who decides who lives and works in our neighbourhood? Who decides what our neighbourhood looks like and what businesses should operate here?’ Do we decide according to our needs, or according to the cost – benefit calculations of hedge funds and property pimps? At the moment it looks like the latter but it doesn’t need to be, it’s neither a law of nature or one of the 10 commandments.
Let’ s go forward and resist this together, whether it’s for the Syndikat, your flat or your favorite café. We should be able decide for ourselves what our own needs are.
Support us, the Syndikat, and our fight against the expulsion from our neighbourhood.
But fight with us, all of us together and in solidarity, against every expulsion in your and our neighbourhood.