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NY Times: "Now, Kreuzberg can add another notch in its hard-scrabble belt with the October unveiling of the community-oriented Markthalle Neun. Originally opened in 1891, the market hall has returned, just as storied as the neighborhood it inhabits.
During World War II, the market hall’s windows were darkened with black paint and commerce closed. More recently, Berlin’s municipal government put it up for sale to the highest bidder and Kaiser’s — a German big box chain grocer — became slated to set up shop. True to form, Kreuzberg’s residents responded. In 2009, 500 of them gathered at the market to drink coffee in a publicity move that resulted in the municipality’s agreeing to sell the space instead to the “highest concept.”
For 1.15-million euros (about $1.5 million, and half the original asking price) three local entrepreneurs — Florian Niedermeier, Bernd Maier and Nikolaus Driessen — pooled their resources to buy the hall and set about clearing the building of decades’ worth of accumulated junk.
Only a few weeks since its debut, the new indoor market is abuzz with 30 small-scale, regional vendors hawking comestibles under red-and-white striped tarp awnings. Echoing the demographic composition of Kreuzberg, women wearing headscarves haggle over the price of fresh fish and thick loaves of dark-brown bread alongside women with shaved heads and nose rings.
Mr. Niedermeier explained that Neun — much like Germany’s capital — remains in a state of evolution, and only over intervening years will it find its fullest expression. Currently, the market is only open two days a week (Friday, noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and will continue to grow in a piecemeal fashion, with select vendors being invited to participate over time.
Northern Germans “don’t pay so much attention to the externalized costs of industrialized food production,” Mr. Niedermeier said. The founders of Markthalle Neun hope to change that. They conceive of the hall as a community meeting place to foster dialogue and education about human-scale agriculture; rather than a luxury market, they hope it will be a convergence point where real people can buy real food that they take home and prepare themselves."
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