In the wake of the Brexit vote, Frankfurt is booming and thousands of investment bankers are heading for the German financial capital that also happens to be home to the European Central Bank. But can the city handle the influx?
By Tim Bartz and Martin Hesse and cross-posted from Der Spiegel
The man who has been tasked with turning Frankfurt into a top-ranking international metropolis loves his “living room.” That is what locals call the Römerberg, the square in Frankfurt that is the seat of the city’s government, lovingly rebuilt with the half-timbered structures that graced the site prior to its World War II destruction. Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann enjoys being photographed here, in front of his official residence. But on this pre-Christmas day, the mayor has to stay inside. The square is jammed with thousands of tourists from Asia, America and other parts of Germany shopping at the city’s Christmas market.
It is a fitting backdrop for Feldmann as he holds forth, eyes ablaze, about the opportunities and challenges facing his city. The mayor has discarded his suitcoat and leans across the table. “Frankfurt is the most international, the most global city in Germany,” he says. He adds that it could soon become the first large city in Germany to completely rid itself of unemployment.
Feldmann insists that none of what is currently coming into Frankfurt from London as a result of Brexit, or what may be coming in the future – the executives, the money, the growing apartment shortages and the foreign influences – is new for the old trading city. Its 730,000 residents, the mayor boasts, didn’t even have trouble integrating the more than 5,000 refugees who arrived in the city.
Not everybody in the city, though, is completely taken with Feldmann’s ostentatious equanimity. Ever since the British voted to leave the European Union in the June 23, 2016 referendum, Frankfurt has been buzzing. The business elite want to see the mayor take advantage of Brexit and finally transform the city into the Continent’s most important financial center. Speculators are excited about the possibilities – and particularly enthusiastic about the potential arrival of thousands of wealthy bankers with the salaries to rent expensive apartments and the expense accounts to fill up restaurants.