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King Fahad Academy: Saudi Arabian school building remains vacant a year after closing

King Fahad Academy : Saudi Arabian school building remains vacant a year after closing

Many who drive past the vacant school building in Lannesdorf wonder what is happening there. It seems the city has trouble getting in contact with the responsible Saudi authorities to determine what comes next for the former King Fahad Academy.

The minaret of the King Fahad Academy in Lannesdorf is hard to overlook. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has left its mark, even though the building has been vacant for almost a year now. Since then, local politicians have been racking their brains, trying to figure out who could move in there. But even if the city would make use of its right to repurchase the property, at the moment there is nothing that can be done about the vacancy. The city lacks a contact person who is responsible for the former school.

At least that is what the administration says: “"According to the information that the city has right now, the newly appointed ambassador is not even active in Berlin. Without contact to an ambassador, the city does not have a civil or constitutional right to a property that belongs to an external state," was the word from the press office. The property sitting vacant cannot be avoided, says deputy spokesman Marc Hoffmann.

Discussions at the political level have shown that the city considers the academy unsuitable for housing a kindergarten, even though there is a shortage of kindergarten and pre-school places for children in Rüngsdorf, Pennenfeld and Lannesdorf. According to Hoffman, there are some initial ideas being considered for use of the site, but he was not willing to be more concrete.

“We are stuck in a dilemma here,” says Wolfgang Heedt of the FDP party. He would like to see more action from the administration, for example by going through the German Embassy in Riyadh or the Foreign Office. They should look for a person who is responsible for the property in the country of origin. Before that, there is no point in looking for an investor.

“For two years now we knew that the school operations would close down, for a year now the building is empty,” say CDU politicians Philipp Lerch and Christoph Jansen. "At no other school building would we be able to afford or tolerate a vacancy for so long." As reported, the city would have to pay 1.74 million marks (890,000 euros) for the land. In addition, there would be a calculated cost for the school building that sits on the property. The CDU speculates on the right of repurchase and hopes that the city will soon be in a position to decide for itself what will happen there.

Hillevi Burmester of the SPD party said that if a use for the property could not be found promptly, they were in favor of a competition for ideas, with a decision by a jury panel. "For that, however, it must first be clear whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself as the owner already has new plans."

“Vacancy is always bad," says Nicole Unterseh of the Greens. But the administration probably has its hands tied until Saudi Arabia approaches the city. Marcel Schmitt of the citizen party BBB believes Mayor Ashok Sridharan is not interested in putting the property to use anytime soon and he sees it as suitable for a kindergarten. He suspects that in the absence of an ambassador, there is certainly a responsible charge d’affaires in Berlin.

(Orig. text: Richard Bongartz. Translation Carol Kloeppel)