A joint announcement was made at the Rathaus in Oberursel yesterday, and you could tell how important it was by of the number of people present. Representatives of 5 political parties, the school, the town, local residents, and even the mayor got together to announce a compromise had been reached on the location for the new FIS sports hall.
The project started two years ago when Frankfurt International School (FIS) in Oberursel held a competition to design a new sports hall. The winning entry would have probably been the easiest to build, as it was outside the current campus and would have been located diagonally opposite the main entrance at the Waldlust, next to the Hans-Rother-Steg.
Except that this location had its opponents. For a start there were the local residents in that road who already have to contend with the traffic that the school generates. They collected over 900 signatures against the plan.
But there were also a number of groups who were opposed to the forest being cut down to make space for the building.
This particular area of forest is called a Schutzwald, ie. a forest that enjoys a certain level of protection because it performs a specific function, such as preventing landslides or for water management.
And so it was, that in the past months all of these groups, along with the parties from the town’s parliament, have sat down at a so-called “round table” to discuss the options available.
A number of options were on the table, and the school evaluated each of them on criteria such as security for the campus, accessibility, but also for their environmental impact and whether they could also reduce the daily traffic load that the roads around the school have cope with.
After the first two sittings the options had been narrowed down to just two, with the final sitting taking place and a compromise being reaching less than a week ago.
The sports hall itself is planned as two Zweifeldturnhallen, which put into plain English means that there will be two halves to the hall, and each of those halves can either be used as one play area or divided into two smaller areas running at 90 degrees to the main area. The building will be 86m x 50m and 8m tall.
And its new location is set to be between the B455 road (which is still on a bridge at this point) and the sports field behind the primary school. (Click here to see the rough location in Google Maps).
This location is mostly on FIS property and would only result in a small amount of forest being cut down – and that forest is not classed Schutzwald either.
If only it wasn’t for the wild animals.
You see, this location is also not without its problems, because it is at this point that wild animals go under the busy B455 road. Apparently it is the only point at which this is possible between Bad Homburger Kreuz and the Opel Zoo at Königstein.
Not only would the solution as it stood cause some degree of protest amongst the environmental groups, I am pretty sure that FIS do not really want wild boar taking a detour through their campus either.
The solution is not to build the new sports hall next to the road, but to turn it through 90 degrees and effectively place it on the end of the current sports field. The field will then also be turned by 90 degrees to run parallel to the hall.
All of which takes the hall a lot further away from the Waldlust part of the campus than FIS would like, meaning that a connecting pathway needs to be built and some of the timetables need re-thinking.
But what of the old sports hall?
This is due to be torn down to make way for new classrooms. FIS stress that they do not intend to increase the number of classrooms, but some of their existing rooms are not up to current international standards and a new building would remove the need for temporary classrooms.
At the same time, the Waldlust entrance will be re-designed to allow the school buses to enter the campus and drop children off inside, rather than at the roadside.
Which just leaves the problem of the number of cars dropping children off and picking them up at the Waldlust entrance to solve. Given that a pathway will be going to the new sports hall, the new concept envisages children who come by car being dropped off and picked up in front of the primary school, using the car park next to the Taunus Information Centre. This would relieve both the Hohemarkstraße and the Waldlust of a certain amount of traffic, although at the moment I have yet to see what incentive the parents actually have to adhere to the plan.
But with maybe that small exception, everyone present at the announcement was agreed that the “round table” concept was an exemplary way to solve the problem by getting everyone together to find an amicable solution before the planning permission phase, and that the method will probably be used for other local issues in the future.