Dispute over historic preservation in hamburg: compromise on schiller opera house

Settlement before the Administrative Court: Deadline for securing the former circus building on St. Pauli extended by another six months.

Left to decay: Schiller Opera Photo: Miguel Ferraz

The Senate and the owner of the Schiller Opera have agreed on a settlement before the Administrative Court. However, as the cultural authority informed on request, this still has to be formally concluded. According to the agreement, the owner Mareike Janssen would have to secure the former circus building until December 31 and would be allowed to implement her own concept.

After years of back and forth, the Senate had obliged the owner last December to prepare the listed building in such a way that it would not deteriorate further. The final deadline for this was May 31. Janssen lodged an objection and filed an urgent application with the administrative court to prevent the Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments from securing the building fabric of the Schilleroper on its own.

The Schiller Opera House, built in 1891, stands behind the Lerchenstrasse police station in the middle of the popular neighborhood between the Schanzenviertel and the Reeperbahn. The owner at the time wanted to demolish it as early as 1998. Since 2012, it has been listed as probably the last remaining permanent circus building of the 19th century in Germany.

Initiative resists demolition

Nevertheless, the current owner wants to demolish it and build three new houses: a rotunda based on the shape of the circus building with workplaces and a courtyard as a meeting place, as well as two seven- and ten-story apartment buildings. She refers to an expert opinion of the city’s development authority, according to which the circus building is so dilapidated that many parts would have to be replaced. The owner thinks that this makes the protection of historical monuments pointless.

Heike Sudmann, The Left

"Still the owner can dance around on the nose of the city".

Heike Sudmann, urban development policy spokeswoman for the Left Party in the Burgerschaft, is annoyed that the generous deadline ordered by the Senate for securing the building has passed and now another half a year has been added. Whether the settlement is a bright spot remains to be seen, he said. "Seven months of delay is a big risk given the condition of the building," Sudmann warns. "If it collapses before then, the preservation order will also be gone, and with it the brake on returns for the owner."

The Schilleroper Initiative has also been campaigning for the preservation of the building for two years. She recalls that the building is included in the European cultural heritage. The Belgian city of Ghent had bought a similarly constructed winter circus and wanted to convert it.