Another classic Berlin urbex destination is now on borrowed time. The Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch, an abandoned shopping centre in Reinickendorf in the former French sector, will be torn down by its new owner, with the aim of building new housing on the site.
The Cité Foch (initially Cité Toucoulou) grew out of the Camp Foch, a settlement of the French Allies in post-war Berlin, and was a restricted area due to the presence of strategic sites, such as the listening post on Rue Montesquieu.
At the height of its popularity in 1991, the Cite Foch, named after Ferdinand Foch, a French Marshall, who was largely responsible for the Allied victory in the First World War, was home to 2,600 people.
The Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch was built in the 1970s to house the commissary (the food shop on a military base), a cinema and restaurant.
After the withdrawal of the French military from the area in 1994 there were some issues finding tenants for the housing estate. Though it is now a popular residential area, the shopping centre did not recover.
At the end of the 1990s, Famila Warenhaus moved in but Kaufland acquired the brand’s operation in Berlin in 2001 and closed the store in 2006.
The building has been partially empty since then, though an Aldi supermarket and an Elixia fitness centre continued to operate past this time. The last of the tenants left in 2011.
Since then, the building has been in limbo. The majority owner since 1998, a Swiss investor was insolvent and the minority owner, BIMA (Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben), the Federal Agency for Real Estate, was for some time unable to contact him.
Several proposals for renovation failed to come to fruition and vandalism and a lack of care took its toll on the building.
In July 2014, the main creditor of the previous owner, a Frankfurt-based asset manager, acquired outright control of the site in a foreclosure sale, having already purchased BIMA’s stake.
The building will now be demolished and sold with planning permission (assuming this is granted) to a developer.
When I visited on a cold February day the shopping centre was open to the elements. Though it was clear that some effort had been made in the past to secure it, I had the choice of several open doors and smashed windows to walk or crawl through.
I had to be careful as I wandered around in the darker corners not to slip on the ice on the floor, formed where the rain had dripped, or in come cases fallen through, cracks in the ceiling and holes in the roof.
Unfortunately, by the time I discovered the place the authorities had taken some measures to make the place safer and reduce the impact of vandalism – much of the building had been gutted, including removing the escalators that were the most impressive feature of the early urbex photos I saw.
I would suggest visiting the Einkaufszentrum Cité Foch soon for a chance to explore the abandoned shopping centre before the bulldozers move in – though it might already be too late, as recent news footage shows metal fences around the building, which may already have been secured against opportune visitors.