Görlitz Rediscovered

For a long time, the city of Görlitz, on the border with Poland, suffered from the decline of the coal industry. But the Saxon city is being regenerated as a tourist location and is now positioning itself as an attractive real estate location with several advantages for investors and international companies.

May 2020

German film stars Antje Traue and Moritz Bleibtreu on set in Es war einmal in Deutschland… (Bye Bye Germany) in the historic Saxon city of Görlitz. © picture alliance/AAPimag

The end of the lignite industry in the Görlitz region resulted in a severe crisis for the local economy. When the main lignite-fired power plant was shut down in 1997, around 6,000 jobs were lost. To make matters worse, other sectors such as precision optics, the textile industry and electrical engineering also began to shrink. Many people were forced to leave the city to find work. The population has shrunk from 72,000 citizens in 1990 to just under 57,000 today.

“We have had to make great efforts to create a positive new outlook,” says Andrea Behr, managing director of the local business development agency (EGZ). In short, the city had to make a virtue out of necessity. The first dramatic change to the landscape happened when an opencast mining hole south of Görlitz was flooded. It became the Berzdorfer See (Lake Berzdorf), an area of 960ha – one of the largest lakes in Saxony. The city has plans to develop it into a local recreation area, returning the former industrial site back to nature with areas for leisure and entertainment such as campsites and restaurants. Behr sees huge investment potential for the lake and the urban area in terms of tourism and lifestyle. “Within the last year, two more hotels have opened,” she says. There are now 47 hotels, inns and guesthouses in Görlitz, and the number is growing all the time.

As Germany’s easternmost city, Görlitz has always had an international perspective: One part of the city is located in Germany, the other, called Zgorzelec, in Poland. The two countries are separated by a bridge over the River Neiße, while the Czech border is only 20km away. Görlitz enables easy and fast access to the eastern European markets.

»We have had to make great efforts to create a positive outlook.«

Andrea Behr
managing director of the local business development agency EGZ (Europastadt Görlitz/Zgorzelec)

The old town of Görlitz, which remained almost undamaged during the world wars, is a well-known destination for film and television production companies as well as tourists. As a result of all this interest, Görlitz has applied to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Real estate investors, both domestic and foreign, are invited by the city to get involved in the restorations and receive a subsidy in return. For example, there are subsidies for property owners who renovate residential buildings. In addition, up to 30 percent of the costs incurred for the maintenance of a building can be reimbursed.

Director Dominik Graf (right) during the shooting of the movie Fabian – Der Gang vor die Hunde on set in Berliner Straße, Görlitz. © picture alliance/Geisler-Fotopress

Subsidies for real estate development

There is also substantial support for commercial real estate: The public sector subsidizes up to 40 percent of the costs when companies establish themselves in the region, construct new or expand existing buildings. The city administration plans to make more commercial space available from the end of 2020. For example, it is currently developing the Schlauroth industrial estate, which offers companies a plot of 7ha to settle on. Prices are still attractively low: Manufacturing companies can purchase space from EUR 10 per square meter.

Actress Saskia Rosendahl (left) during the shooting of the movie Fabian – Der Gang vor die Hunde on set in Berliner Straße, Görlitz. © picture alliance/Geisler-Fotopress

Görlitz’s potential has already been recognized by several large and medium-sized companies. Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft and rolling stock manufacturer, is one of the largest employers in the region. In 1998, it took over the rolling stock manufacturer Deutsche Waggonbau. ­Siemens also first invested in Görlitz in the 1990s, and today the company operates a turbine plant there. The company’s latest project is an Innovation Campus for high-tech companies, in partnership with the Dresden University of Technology, among others. A start-up accelerator and a competence center for research into ­hydrogen technologies are also under construction.

“Following in the footsteps of Bombardier and Siemens, several other internationally active companies have chosen to locate in Görlitz and the surrounding area,” says Thomas Horn, managing director of the Saxony Economic Development Corporation (WFS).

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