Can Berlin Afford its New Palace?

The project to rebuild a 15th century structure is missing €60 million.

View of the Berlin Palace from the northwest side Photo: © Stiftung Berliner Schloss – Humboldtforum / Franco Stella

Germany hasn’t had particularly good luck with major construction projects of late. The Berlin Brandenburg International Airport is years behind schedule and still without an approximate opening date. Hamburg’s landmark concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie is seven years behind and more than €300 million ($400 million) over budget.

So, it’s no surprise that the country’s and Berlin’s political class is a little jumpy about the €590 million ($785 million) Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) it decided to rebuild in the center of the capital. The project, which involved the destruction of the cult-favorite, GDR-era Palast der Republik, has already drawn significant criticism for its mere existence—building issues would be a political nightmare.

It turns out that even the suggestion of bumps in the road to the project’s completion can cause uproar. According to the Berliner Morgenpost, State Building Minister Barbara Hendricks’ recent report on the Stadtschloss’ progress noted that all stages of the building’s planning and construction are on time and on budget. However, she also noted that of the €80 million ($107 million) in donations pledged to recreate facades to match those of the original structure—completed in 1451, heavily damaged during World War Two, and demolished in 1950—only €20 million ($27 million) had arrived thus far.

A €60 million ($80 million) gap in finances for the project would seem notable to say the least. But, other officials involved with the project were quick to clamp down on any suspicion that things could be off track. “There is no reason for concern,” Willhelm von Boddien, the managing director of the Berliner Schloss Foundation, told the Morgenpost. The paper noted his extreme frustration with the fact that, “Ms. Hendricks has been in office for nine months yet hasn’t once checked with us,” about the status of the project’s funding.

Progress made on the Berlin City Palace as of August 16, 2014 Photo: Courtesy Humboldtforum via Berliner Morgenpost

Progress made on the Berlin City Palace as of August 16, 2014
Photo: Courtesy Humboldtforum via Berliner Morgenpost

Boddien went on to point out that as of Hendricks’ report €24 million ($32 million) not €20 million in donations had been received. He also noted that 2014 has seen a steep increase in donations over previous years—€8.5 million ($11.3 million) in the first six months as opposed to €2.5 million ($3.3 million) in the entirety of 2011.

Boddien remains confident that his organization will have the full €80 million commitment ready by their 2019 deadline. He also explained that, considering the relatively early stage in the Berlin City Palace’s completion, the are ahead of similar major reconstruction and renovation projects in Germany.

Other politicians weren’t so convinced. The chairman of the building committee,  Bärbel Höhn, told the paper that she believes donations will not come in because potential donors are aware that, should there be a funding gap at the end of the project, the federal government will cough up the extra cash. As it currently stands they have already committed €478 million  ($637 million) to the project. The state of Berlin has also pledged €32 million ($43 million).

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