Berlin, DE
© Michael Kuchinke-Hofer, 2007
A unique form of community ownership enabling the long-term use of an architectural monument


ExRotaprint is a 10.000 m² building complex in Berlin’s Wedding district that formerly constituted the Rotaprint printing press manufacturing plant. In 2004, two artists initiated the process to take over the site from the municipality. They wanted to prevent the building from becoming a speculative real estate investment, and maintain it for independent creatives, social organisations and local businesses that were temporarily housed in the building. ExRotaprint gGmbH, a non-profit limited liability company founded by the tenants, was, after two years of negotiation with the municipality, able to buy the site and to sign a heritable building right with two foundations. Since then, ExRotaprint gGmbH manages the site and provides a long term home to an equal mix of organisations in the manufacturing industry, social institutions and creative people.


Outside city centre


ExRotaprint is a 10.000 m² building complex previously owned by the printing machine manufacturer Rotaprint. Rotaprint has operated in the former working-class district for over 80 years. During the Second World War, the original buildings were largely destroyed. Architect Klaus Kirsten was hired by the company to design the new buildings, which all reflect the post-war modernist style characteristic for the late 1950s. [1;2;3]

After the bankruptcy of Rotaprint in 1989, the local authority took over the site and allowed temporary tenants into the building. In 1991, the complex was listed as a monument. In 2002, the site was transferred from the local authority to Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin (Berlin Real Estate Fund), which was commissioned to sell the property to the highest bidder. The temporary tenants were afraid future speculation of the building would increase rent prices and drive them out, and a process of bottom-up organisation followed to prevent this. [2;3]

Urban development through work, art and community
ExRotaprint strives for urban development that rules out financial profit through ownership. By providing a long-term, affordable place for a heterogeneous group of organisations, the initiative wants to create an open environment in the 10.000 m² building complex that is reflective of the local (working class) community. There are production workshops, offices and classrooms, twenty-two art studios and seventeen practice rooms for bands and musicians, a canteen that serves tenants and neighbours, a 185 m² project space that can be rented for hosting workshops and events, and two guest apartments. [1;2;3]

To promote a heterogenous mix of activity in the building, a diverse mix of tenants is maintained. One-third of the available space is rented out to initiatives working in arts and culture, like design studios or individual artists. One-third of the space is reserved for social projects, like community outreach programmes, unemployment services and teaching. One-third is dedicated to regular work and the manufacturing industry, with the aim of providing regular jobs for local people. In maintaining this balance, ExRotaprint wants to contribute to strengthening the social, economic and cultural capital of the neighbourhood. [1;2;3;4]


Heritage utilized
Building(-s) and/or monumental structures
Creative and cultural industries; Resilient and Human Connected Places
Community action; Creative industries; Sharing economy


In a response to potential sales of the building complex by the municipal real estate fund (Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin), Les Schliesser and Daniela Brahm, two artists who had been renting space at the former Rotaprint premises since 2000, started to bring together the temporary tenants on the site, in an attempt to look for a long-term sustainable solution for all of them. As a first step, a tenants association was established, called ExRotaprint. The ideas to take over the site from the municipality evolved into ExRotaprint gGmbH, a non-profit limited liability company, set up and financed by 10 partners, all of them being tenants of the building. [2] The gGmbH takes major decisions with respect to the building. [3] To ensure that the tenants who are not involved in the gGmbH are represented in the management of the complex, the association of tenants (now called RotaClub e.V.) is the eleventh partner of ExRotaprint gGmbH. All individual partners of ExRotaprint gGmbH and the board of RotaClub e.V. meet once a month. Next to that, there is a planning team that oversees the renovations, made up of two partners of ExRotaprint gGmbH together with two architects. [2;3]

Heritable building right
In order to secure the low purchase price the initiators negotiated, and to prevent the site from being resold at a later date, ExRotaprint gGmbH has teamed up with two foundations, Stiftung trias and Stiftung Edith Maryon, both aimed at preventing speculation with the land. After lengthy negotiations with the local authority and the Liegenschaftsfonds Berlin, the ownership of the site got transferred in 2007, for the sum of €640.000. ExRotaprint gGmbH has signed a heritable building right for 99 years with the foundations. The heritable building right is a legal instrument that separates the buildings and the land. The land is owned by the two foundations that oppose land speculation, prohibiting the future resale of the site. ExRotaprint gGmbH owns the buildings. They manage all aspects of the project, including renting out the available space, and arranging and financing renovation and maintenance of the buildings. ExRotaprint gGmbH operates with non-profit goals and utilises all income generated from the rent paid by those residing in the building to renovate and maintain the heritage site and promote and develop artistic and community activities. Furthermore, for the use of the land, ExRotaprint pays annual ground rent to the foundations. [1;2]


Governance arrangement
Led by citizens / community group
Organisational form
Non-Profit Entity
Stakeholders involved in implementation
Citizens or Community group; Private Foundation

Business Model

ExRotaprint gGmbH generates income by renting out space in the building complex. In 2020, this led to an income of approximately €460.000. [1]

The initial purchase price of €640.000 was less than the land value of the property and was paid by Stiftung trias and Stiftung Edith Maryon. ExRotaprint gGmbH has signed a heritable building right for 99 years with the foundations. [1;2;4] ExRotaprint pays the foundations an annual ground rent of 10% of the net rental income generated, with a minimum of €35.200 per year (which equals 5.5% of the purchase price). [1]

ExRotaprint gGmbH is responsible for renovations and maintenance of these monumental buildings. Surplus from rental income is reinvested in this, yet, this does not cover the financial needs. In 2009, ExRotaprint gGmbH took out a mortgage of €2.250.000 against 4% annual interest from CoOpera Sammelstiftung PUK, a Swiss pension trust that invests primarily in sustainable real estate projects. [1;2;3] In 2017, an additional €500.000 has been received from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin. [1] As of 2021, a total of €5.000.000 has been spent on renovations and maintenance.[3] To complete the consolidation of the buildings, and to finance possible expansions, ExRotaprint extended the mortgage from CoOpera Sammelstiftung PUK in 2020 with another €1.500.000. In 2022 the next major step in renovation starts. [5]


Initial investment
€640.000 for the acquisition of the building
Type of financial resources utilized
Private Investments; Loan; Revenue generated through organisational activities; Donations
Source of financial resources
Private Foundations; Institutional investor; Organisational activities; Public Foundation
Non-financial contributions

Additional information

This case is also featured in the HUB-IN Business and Financing Model Guide.
This guide provides you with a state of the art overview of business, financing and governance models, relevant to the heritage-led regeneration of Historic Urban Areas.


  1. ExRotaprint, organisational website, available at www.exrotaprint.de/en/ , accessed on 04-01-2022

  2. Polyak, L. (2017), Exrotaprint – Community Ownership against speculation, Interview with Daniela Brahm and Les Schliesser (2014/2016), available at cooperativecity.org/2017/07/17/exrotaprint/, accessed on 04-01-2022

  3. Polyak, L., Patti, D., and Nasya, B.(2019), ExRotaprint Observatory case, D2.2 Individual Report on the Observatory Cases, OpenHeritage, H2020 GA 776766, available on openheritage.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/11_OpenHeritage_ExRotaprint-Berlin_Observatory-case.pdf, accessed on 04-01-2022

  4. Westhoff, S., & Lindner, A. (2019) Nachhaltige Transformation urbaner Räume: Eine produktive Stadt–eine lebenswerte Stadt? Ed: Schrenk, Manfred; Popovich, Vasily V.; Zeile, Peter; Elisei, Pietro, 913-919.

  5. Personal communication with managing partners of ExRotaprint (Daniela Brahm and Les Schliesser), 20-01-2022.