Support our mission

HANAU, Germany — With no pointer handy, Martin Bieberle grabs a small metal spoon and begins to move it across a large aerial map of his German city.

The Hanau urban planner skips from one U.S. Army installation to another, discussing merits and possibilities. With the Americans heading out of town lock, stock and barrel, there are all sorts of opportunities to reshape the landscape.

“Lord Mayor (Claus Kaminsky) says it’s the task of the century,” the 43-year-old said through an interpreter. “It’s exciting and emotional.”

Since the early 1990s, when the U.S. military in Europe began to return scores of bases following the end of the Cold War, officials like Bieberle have puzzled over what to do with the newly available land. In some instances, the property went unused for years. In other cases, it didn’t.

Hanau, with a population of about 90,000, already has a pretty good idea of how it plans to use the dozen or so bases within its domain, according to Bieberle.

For example, part of Hutier Casern, the former headquarters of the 16th Corps Support Group, will be the site of a new fire department headquarters and disaster response center. Another section will likely be sold to a home furnishings retailer.

Meanwhile, officials hope to convert a training course into a recreation area, while an adjacent housing area may well remain residential. Other properties, including the sprawling Wolfgang Shopping Center, will probably be used for light industry, given its close proximity to an existing business park.

But there are also potential pitfalls, Bieberle said. If too many apartment units become available at once, he said, you can kill the market.

While he and other city officials relish the opportunity to forever change Hanau, there are mixed emotions. Many residents have never known life without the Americans. Already there is talk about creating an Amerika Haus, cultural centers that are common in many German cities.

“The Americans have been a part of us for a long time,” Bieberle said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up