Berlin's billion dollar boulevard fetes comeback

Mon May 9, 2011 11:24am EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - When Berlin's high street Kurfuerstendamm was developed more than a century ago, Germany's "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck hoped the boulevard would eclipse the Champs-Elysees of Paris in prestige.

Some 125 years later, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and city officials are marking its birthday with a six-month marketing spree, highlighting the street's comeback from a declining West Berlin tract to reunited Berlin's main shopping mile.

"In a polycentric city like Berlin, it's the top of the class of shopping streets," said Nils Busch-Petersen, the director of the German Retail Federation's Berlin office.

While Bismarck's vision has not gone to plan, Wowereit still has good reason to celebrate.

Each year the tree-lined boulevard generates nearly 1 billion euros ($1.44 billion) in revenue for business. It is one of the busiest streets in Germany with an average of some 7,600 people walking past the posh shops each hour, the group said.

Two decades after reunification the revitalized Kurfuerstendamm, or Ku'damm to locals, has helped the German capital become the third most-visited city in Europe behind only London and Paris.

"Ku'damm was invigorated rather than being unsettled by development in the East after the wall fell," Busch-Petersen said, adding that development elsewhere in the city allowed the high street to enhance its upscale reputation.

The leafy boulevard boasts such high-end retailers as Prada, Gucci and Hermes among its some four dozen luxury shops.   Continued...

<p>Teddy bears are pictured in a souvenir shop at the Kurfuerstendamm boulevard in Berlin May 4, 2011.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>