While working with a Danish client, I was asked to evaluate several locations for his company. One was “The Meat Packing District” in Copenhagen that is located in the Vestebro district of the City.
I confess that as a New Yorker, I expected a lesser version of NYC’s Meatpacking District but instead I was blown away by Copenhagen’s version. So I decided to provide some background why I ended up feeling that way.
First and foremost, I need to point out that the area has only one landlord – the Copenhagen Municipality. The city controls the rent, the length of your lease, the access to the area via cars, trams, bicycles and subways or on foot and the entire infrastructure supporting it. It would be difficult to get a lease if your business does not fall into one of the desired categories.
Beginning in 1879, the municipality has continuously worked with private businesses in order to benefit the citizens of Copenhagen. Originally the purpose was to assure the supply of hygienically produced beef and now it is to maintain the vitality of the area while keeping the historical architecture of the area intact.
The area is comprised of three sections (white meat city, grey meat city and brown meat city) with white being the newest (circa 1934) and brown being the oldest (circa 1883) with different functions and architecture. Our client is considering space in the brown area where exterior renovation is minimized and the spaces are focused on creative companies and start-ups.
In contrast, the white area is focused on still active food businesses including slaughter and retail food-related businesses, which are mostly restaurants, and has different incentives. The area creates a tremendous amount of local and tourist foot traffic and houses some of the most “hip” food places in Copenhagen.
The area is covered by a development plan within the overall Copenhagen plan called KP 15. Its transformation actually began in 2007, when the municipality of Copenhagen teamed with Mutopia Architects to create a food centered development plan. It was called, “Meat and Creativity” , and started offering long-term leases to businesses involved in their target markets( i.e., design, hospitality, cultural) while maintaining the viability of the existing food processing companies.
It must be noted, that Copenhagen and Denmark, unlike American municipalities, do not offer tax incentives in order to attract businesses. Instead they offer a huge list of services and infrastructure designed to eliminate hassles of all kind. The goal is to have a viable city that is good for both residents and business. In my opinion, that is healthier in the long-term than chasing companies like Amazon with huge tax credits. Here are the details for the Copenhagen 2015 plan. Based on my short visit, I have to say it is working.
I spent several days in the district and was amazed by its variety and 24 hour working cycle. During the late night, trucks make deliveries to the remaining meat processors and also re-supply the restaurants; during the day, the area is swarming with young professionals and workers from nearby, sampling lunch at one of the many restaurants. In the afternoon or early evening the entire area converts into restaurants and party spaces. The outdoor spaces are maximized (I was there in May) with beach chairs and tables where people mingle while having dinner or drinks. Copenhagen is currently experiencing a wave of BBQ and Hamburger joints. The best ones can be found in the white area of this district.
I had dinner at Kodbyens Fiskebar , at the bar and watched the main area of the White District fill up during a weekday evening in a way that would make a lot of restaurant owners wish they had a branch here.
After dinner, I strolled past the wholesale food processors and the contrast in lack of people and noise was both amazing and intended. During the early morning hours and through lunch time this area was full of commercial activity.
Going through a passageway I entered the gray and brown districts. The change in architecture (now 1890’s) and labyrinth of narrow streets was amazing. This is the area where our client intends to locate his offices – I am envious!
Unfortunately, my visit to this unique area was not as long as I would have wished. If you are considering opening an office in the EU, then Copenhagen needs to be on your short list.