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Germany

Tempelhof Costs City More When Closed

Tempelhof airport, mothballed in October 2008, is costing Berlin more now that it's closed than it did during its loss-making operational days, with a projected annual deficit of 14 million euros ($19 million).

The entrance hall of the main terminal at Tempelhof airport

The city is currently deciding on how to use Tempelhof in future

According to the state-owned real estate company managing the former airport, Tempelhof is set to be a long-term drain on the city's finances. In the worst-case scenario, the property could accrue annual losses of 14.2 million euros, said Sven Lemiss, the head of Berliner Immobilienmanagement (BIM) in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper. In comparison, while Tempelhof was still operational, it racked up a yearly deficit of some 10 million euros.

So where are the additional costs coming from? Lemiss pointed to a bill from the city's cleaning firm, BSR. Because the airport is closed, it is classed as a normal property, and therefore incurs cleaning fees for the surrounding public roads.

"That amounts to a seven-figure bill," Lemiss said. In BIM's view, these costs could be avoided should Tempelhof continue to be classed as a special property to which the street cleaning fees do not apply.

Tempelhof's losses used to be absorbed by the airport operator. Now though, the burden falls to the government, which closed down the historic airfield before a plan for its future use had been approved.

Currently, the police force is leasing space in the former terminal, and BIM says it has plans to lease more space to both businesses and cultural organizations.

Babelsberg keen to acquire space

Gateway to Babelsberg Film Studios

Babelsberg is facing capacity problems and thinks Tempelhof is the answer

The most promising proposal, though, comes from Babelsberg Film Studios, currently housed in a suburb of Potsdam some 30 kilometers southwest of Berlin. Thanks to increased international film production demands, Babelsberg needs more capacity. Its bosses would like to transform Tempelhof into a major movie production center in the heart of Berlin.

Besides making use of Tempelhof's voluminous airport hangars, Babelsberg company chiefs say their plans would involve the creation of a public events center, along with offices and apartment complexes for film workers and artists.

Babelsberg chief Carl Woebcken said that, if approved by the Berlin authorities, the project will enable the historic film company to "greatly expand studio production capacity."

The Berlin Senate is currently running an "ideas competition" for Tempelhof, with a decision expected at the end of January for the site's future use.

Other proposals that were being considered before the closure included maintaining Tempelhof as a short-haul inner city airport, and converting it into a medical center with convenient airport facilities.

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