If Christoph Zoerb had his way, U.S. soldiers would stay in Giessen, Germany, rather than pull out.

As a spokesman for the Giessen city government, Zoerb said the city would miss the American presence due to “emotional and economic ties” between the town and the soldiers.

“The Americans are an integral part of this community,” Zoerb said. “They shop in our stores and some people have invited Americans into their homes for Christmas.”

U.S. Army Europe officials announced Thursday that more than 1,000 soldiers would be leaving the city, which has a population of about 70,000, in the next year as part of the latest transformation of troops in Germany.

The remaining 1,000 American soldiers, members of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment and the 16th Engineer Battalion, are set to leave the city by 2008.

The U.S. Army Garrison Giessen, which includes Friedberg, Butzbach and Bad Nauheim, contributes about $23 million to the local economy through maintenance and service contracts, according to Installation Management Agency-Europe. Army buildings sit on nearly 1,600 acres of property.

The land will be returned to the German government when the Americans leave.

Zoerb said the city had no specific plans for what will become of the land, but the residents of Giessen have already expressed what they do not want. Shortly after hearing the official announcement that the base would be closed, the Giessen city council passed a resolution prohibiting developers from converting the area into an industrial site.

“Our first choice would be to keep the soldiers here,” said Zoerb, adding that he had lobbied the U.S. Army to keep the installation open. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the same division. Send any of the other brigades.”

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