BERLIN, GERMANY – the city government of Berlin plans to turn Templehof airport complex, an airlift site that played a vital role during the Cold War, into a residential complex which will reportedly house over 1,700 affordable homes.
According to a statement released by the Berlin City Planning Office on September 12, the said development will start in 2016 and will cover about a quarter of the airfield as aside from the housing project, the city will also be adding buildings including a library to three other sites within the complex.
Michael Mueller, head of the planning office, added that these upcoming properties will remedy housing woes that’s currently one of the problems faced by the city as new construction delay household growth.
“It’s in the interests of all Berlin that we create affordable housing in the city center,” Mueller pointed out.
Currently, Flughafen Templehof is used as a park with the airlift’s main building used as venue for events which include an annual beer festival. The airfield with its two runways, on the other hand, serves as a parkland where visitors can jog and roller-blade on the tarmac or do barbecue get-togethers.
Templehof with its stone-covered terminal was built by the Nazis in the 1930s. It has been closed to air traffic since 2008 but this historical airfield remains a strong monument to the memory of the Berlin Airlift in 1948 to 1949.
It was in June 1948 when the Soviet Union tried to take control over the whole German capital by putting a stop on the surface rail and street access going back and forth the western part of the city. If the pulled off plan had succeeded, over two million city citizens would have starved as no food supply would be able to pass through.
However, the US government, headed by President Truman at that period, reacted to the Blockade by providing daily airlifts of food and supplies to Berliners residing in the western district. Over 5,000 tons of supplies were delivered everyday. The said “Airbridge” lasted until September 1949 when the Soviets finally lifted the blockade.
The whole airfield covers an area of 380 hectares or 939 acres – the expanse a little bigger than London’s Hyde Park. If the housing plan pushes through and all four projects completed, 230 hectares of the said airfield will be left.
There has been a continuing protest over the plans by activists since the government had revealed it in 2007.
“The character of Tempelhof will get lost if they build on it,” Felix Herzog, a spokesman for 100% Tempelhofer Feld e.V., stated.
the organization has been staging demonstrations against the development and had currently staged one last September 15. The said group also plans to gather signatures for a petition to scrap out the project.
Mr. Herzog and those who share his cause said that the construction of the planned homes will cut off the area of the airfield which in turn threatens local flora and fauna found within the area.
They added that instead of the airfield, there are still other vacant lots for the government to use.
On the other hand, the government has maintained that doing the said housing plan will help curb rising apartment prices within the city.
“Berlin is growing and by 2030 we’ll need another 130,000 apartments. That’s why construction on the Tempelhof airfield is necessary,” Maren Kern, head of the BBU Association of Berlin-Brandenburg Residential Companies, carefully pointed out in an e-mail.