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Skyscraper on the edge of the Rheinaue: Bonn council opposes Aire Tower on the Rheinaue

Skyscraper on the edge of the Rheinaue : Bonn council opposes Aire Tower on the Rheinaue

The entrepreneur Horst Burbulla wants to build a glass observation tower on the Rheinaue. He has already collected 3,800 signatures for a citizens' petition, he says. Council factions, however, are sceptical about the project.

Many visitors to Bonn have already found it a pity that only the Post Office Board and a few invited guests are allowed to enjoy the view of the Rhine Valley from the roof of the Post Tower. Perhaps the Bonn entrepreneur Horst Burbulla was one of them. The mechanical engineer made money with his company Technocrane in Pilsen, Czech Republic, which makes telescopic cranes for film productions. But you can’t take that with you to your grave, says the 63-year-old, who therefore wants to build a glass observation tower with an event hall for 1,100 guests at a height of 162 metres on the edge of the Rheinaue next to the Posttower.

He planned the project himself, but structural engineers, fire safety experts and architects were involved, he says. After all, the wind load for the glass shell of the tower, which would be 220 meters tall, is enormous. With its shape of an inverted chandelier, AIRE would definitely be an eye-catcher, first impressions reveal.

The visionary nature of the project is obviously receiving enthusiasm in Bonn. So far, 3,800 people have signed the citizens' petition for the opening of a land-use planning procedure, says Burbulla's press spokesman Thomas Lenz. Since October, a special showroom has been set up at Fürstenstrasse 3 to present the project. By the end of June 2020, its instigator wants to have collected the 9,944 necessary signatures of supporters. Then the city council would have to initiate the procedure. If the politicians reject the project, a citizens' decision will be made, in which all Bonn residents who are entitled to vote will be allowed to have their say.

The entrepreneur, who has not yet made an appearance in Bonn, would like to finance his project with a private foundation. The regional council of Cologne has now approved the foundation, reports Burbulla. According to its purpose, it is to finance music performances and to initially house concerts as part of the Beethoven anniversary programme. Its non-profit status is currently being examined. The company has contributed 200,000 euros as share capital.

Depending on the phase of the project, Burbulla will add further capital and expand the foundation's purpose to include the construction of the event tower, he explains. He has set aside 35 to 40 million euros to be on the safe side. The remainder of the projected construction costs of at least 80 million euros will be financed by loans. The operating costs should be financed from current income. Burbulla does not have any economic interest in the project for himself. In the ideal case, the project could be opened in 2027, Burbulla believes.

The main reason for the unusual approach of the citizens' petition is based on the reserved reactions of council factions, whom Burbulla had initially contacted. “What he has in mind is not only futuristic, but also somewhat bizarre,” says Bert Moll, the planning policy spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group. The financial framework, he said, was not apparent, at least not at present. The idea has not met with consistent rejection within the parliamentary group, he said. Civic commitment is appreciated, but Moll does not envisage great chances for realisation of the project within the urban land-use plan.

The SPD planning politician Helmut Redeker is also sceptical. The terrace of the Marriott Hotel offers a panoramic view just 400 metres away. He added that Bonn does not need a small concert hall, but a larger hall for pop concerts.

New ideas, including new buildings are desirable, says Hartwig Lohmeyer (the green party). “But the chosen location is not suitable at all,” he thinks, for financial reasons alone. The city would have to reimburse the federal government up to twelve million euros if it were to lease the land on Charles-de-Gaulle-Strasse to Burbulla for development. The federal government had made it available to the municipality years ago for the World Conference Centre Bonn. Planning spokesman Frank Thomas of the FDP party finds the idea interesting in principle, but the question of location needs discussion. “I am curious whether the necessary signatures for a citizens' petition will be collected”, he says.

(Original text; Martin Wein, translation John Chandler)