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Heidelberg and Mannheim after US Army departure%3F

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I was stationed in HD and MA from '05 to '09, and am curious what effect the departure of the US Army had on the area.  I guess most people didn't really notice or care that much?  It seemed that a lot of the 'local national' employees had rather cushy and low-stress jobs; don't know how they fared.  

 

It looks like the redevelopment of my old haunts of Patton Barracks, Benjamin Franklin Village etc has been very slow going.  

 

I know the antics of many of our working class, unworldly American soldiers could be annoying to Europeans, so I'm sure some were glad to see them go.

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When the Syrian refugees came pouring in, Mannheim was superbly positioned to house great numbers of them because of the empty barracks. 29k if I remember correctly.

 

Considering the redevelopment of Turley Barracks, closed in 1994, I think, only began in 2013, I would say there's likely at least 10 years between BRAC and redevelopment. 

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It probably mirrors what happened in Augsburg when Reece, Sheridan and the Patch Barracks closed and the "Ami went home." At first there was a huge hole in the city when suddenly over 5000 GI´s left, then the developers got hold of the buildings and grounds, they then changed the large roomed flats into smaller ones, sold them and made a killing. Companies moved into the buildings on the barracks, mostly at the lower end of the buisness spectrum; "Johnny´s chop shop and bait shack" kind of places. Things stagnated and slowly went into a terminal decline with the flats being taken over by people mainly on HarzIV until recently there was an influx of Neubürger. Now you can walk through what remains of the barracks and play "spot the German!"

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In Mannheim, it is a huge project. I have not followed it closely since I moved out of the city a few years ago. But the vision the planers had was impressive. I hope it will be successful. I think Turley was one of the first to be converted.

The website is in German, but google translate can help you there and maybe you spot familiar areas in the phots.

 

https://www.konversion-mannheim.de/

 

Coleman is still used by the armed forces as a storage area for vehicles. They are parked everywhere including the runway.

Benjamin's diner is still there and busier than ever.

 

I think the effect the departure had in Mannheim and HD was diluted by the fact that these are both larger cities that did not depend solely on the armed forces economically. Things were a bit different in rural areas, e.g. the Pfalz, afaik.

Many Mannheimers miss the young Americans that livened up the night life in the city.

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I'm glad to hear they're putting some of the ex US army buildings to use in some places. We used to drive past a huge complex between Babenhausen and Aschaffenburg that was abandoned and obviously falling into disrepair. I never figured out why they were not turned into apartments, offices, etc. I think at one time a small part may have been used to house refugees, but they're gone now too. I would imagine by this time there would be a good deal of deterioration - it's a shame considering how much demand there is in that area for affordable housing.

 

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I heard - no idea if this was true and can't really research it at this moment - that some barracks somewhere could not be used because they were built using asbestos. It sounded not too far- fetched to me. 

 

 

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41 minutes ago, maxie said:

I heard - no idea if this was true and can't really research it at this moment - that some barracks somewhere could not be used because they were built using asbestos. It sounded not too far- fetched to me. 

 

 

That would make sense and explain why all those potential apartments and offices are sitting empty.

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On 8.4.2019, 17:38:29, maxie said:

I heard - no idea if this was true and can't really research it at this moment - that some barracks somewhere could not be used because they were built using asbestos. It sounded not too far- fetched to me.

 

 

It's not just asbestos, the main problem in that regard is usually the binder used in the flooring, which almost always contains PCBs.

 

The buildings as they are are generally not usable due to the US Military using separate water/energy supply and sewer systems - and since these were disconnected when the Military left and fouled up within months they are basically completely unusable.

 

Depending on when exactly construction occured there are may also be some problems with stability - in particular with buildings not for habitation (those DOD schools seem to be somewhat notorious for that...).

 

On 8.4.2019, 18:22:36, maryrrf said:

That would make sense and explain why all those potential apartments and offices are sitting empty.

 

Eh, it's more that throwing a few thousand apartments onto a small market such as Babenhausen would rather negatively impact the market. Staging conversion to coincide with a lull in other development and stretching it in phases over multiple years lowers this impact.

 

And then there's of course the fact that upon being handed back by the US Military the areas are owned by the federal government subsequently. And they're not exactly handing them over to local municipalities or developers for free, but only at market value.

 

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On 7.4.2019, 22:14:23, WMartinSC said:

I know the antics of many of our working class, unworldly American soldiers could be annoying to Europeans, so I'm sure some were glad to see them go.

In my time in Germany in the 80's the American soldier was much more popular than the British, French, Russian, etc.  Obviously there were problems like there would be with any large group of young males, but the Americans did seem to make more effort to be friendly.  Just my experience of course.

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3 hours ago, kato said:

 

It's not just asbestos, the main problem in that regard is usually the binder used in the flooring, which almost always contains PCBs.

 

The buildings as they are are generally not usable due to the US Military using separate water/energy supply and sewer systems - and since these were disconnected when the Military left and fouled up within months they are basically completely unusable.

 

Yeah, a good clue. And then there is the general problem of contaminated sites – this ranges from simply buried household waste to mineral oil residues and toxic heavy metals. 

The biggest problem, however, is that no one knows what surprises are waiting in the ground and suspected areas first have to be investigated at great cost. At Spinelli (Mannheim) alone, there were 132 suspect sites. And in the former Campbell Barracks (Heidelberg), for example, the heavy metal contaminated soil under the Paradeplatz has to be remediated. 

 

All in all, the topic is politically sensitive, the polluters are gone, the land belongs or belonged to the federal government, which has partly resold it, and then the question arises as to who will pay for the remediation work and how long it will take ... For small and financially weak communities it is often easier to build a fence and leave the land and buildings empty than to spend non-existent millions on renovation.

 

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3 hours ago, kato said:

 

And then there's of course the fact that upon being handed back by the US Military the areas are owned by the federal government subsequently. And they're not exactly handing them over to local municipalities or developers for free, but only at market value.

 

Very true, everything you said.

 

There is also the fact that the areas were handed over with the proviso that the army was not responsible for any pollution etc. below ground (leading some to speculate that there might be rockets or warheads underground...). In some areas, the pollution appears to be quite extreme. The Mannheim notably the forest where shooting exercises took place, but also storage areas and petrol stations where pollutants have seeped into the ground. (Source: Info evening about Konversionsflächen in Mannheim 5(?) years ago)

 

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On 11/04/2019, 17:18:01, someonesdaughter said:

 

For small and financially weak communities it is often easier to build a fence and leave the land and buildings empty than to spend non-existent millions on renovation.

 

Most of those small communities never buy the places from the Federal government. In most locations the Feds rent them out to e.g. some farmer who stores his tractors there or to someone who'll let animals graze there. Or just lock the gate and let them sit idle.

 

In Mannheim that's the case with Rheinau-Kaserne, which barely anyone will know - was handed back in 1994. It's still owned by the federal government with buildings slowly crumbling (couple burned out, the rest are literal ruins) while they've rented it out to some guy who usually has donkeys and goats graze there. It's occasionally in the news when he has somewhat less common animals, such as a camel or more recently his emus.

 

On 11/04/2019, 17:22:18, maxie said:

In some areas, the pollution appears to be quite extreme. The Mannheim notably the forest where shooting exercises took place, but also storage areas and petrol stations where pollutants have seeped into the ground.

 

The main problem in this regard is the former Class III Point next to Coleman, a tank depot. It was handed back in 2010 and is  owned by the federal government since then. Just clearing such a depot - at this size - usually costs around 5 million Euro, and that's before you remove contaminated soil. As far as i know the Feds are doing exactly nothing there, partially probably because the (actively used) military rail access to Coleman runs through it.

 

The forest ain't Mannheim's problem. The former training area within it - as well as the former chemical weapons depot - lays across the state border in Viernheim and Lampertheim.

 

On 08/04/2019, 07:35:28, AlexTr said:

When the Syrian refugees came pouring in, Mannheim was superbly positioned to house great numbers of them because of the empty barracks. 29k if I remember correctly.

 

Peak refugee housing in Mannheim was 15,000 with 9,500 at Benjamin Franklin Village, 2,500 at Spinelli Barracks, 2,000 at Funari Barracks and 1,000 at Hammonds Barracks.

 

Only the "Columbus Quarter" of BFV was used, i.e. the area squeezed between the tram line and the highway; BFV, Funari and Sullivan Barracks had already been sold to MWSP for development at the time and were rented back by the state for this purpose. Columbus Quarter was used for refugee housing by the state until the end of 2018 (that's when the lease ended) and was then handed back to MWSP. Currently it is used for housing 300 "city-owned" refugees and 400 German soldiers while it is being torn down until the end of the year. The German soldiers are cadets of the Bundeswehr academy in Mannheim-Neuostheim, where new dorms are being built in place of old ones (hence why the feds use several conversion sites to house them in the meantime, Hammonds and Tompkins in Schwetzingen too for example).

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