How does military living work

Conversion - remodeling of property areas

Image: Kastanienpark project

What is conversion?

When a fallow urban area or a former military area is to be made usable for a new purpose, one speaks of "conversion" in the real estate sector. Above all, the conversion of areas such as military training areas, barracks buildings or military airfields for the purpose of settling private homeowners or businesses is conversion. In cities, conversion in urban development primarily includes the reclamation of areas for residential construction and the densification of residential areas. In this way, valuable properties can be developed in attractive locations. In the best case scenario, the city planners thus contribute to the upgrading of districts and districts.

The challenge of a location task

The conversion of former military installations has a special feature. Since these areas have often been used for military purposes for several decades, in some cases even centuries, the areas are not owned by the municipalities. Instead, the federal government or the respective armed forces such as the US Army, the British Armed Forces or the French Armed Forces are the owners of these conversion areas. The Federal Real Estate Agency in Bonn manages the properties of the Bundeswehr. It is subject to the technical supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance. Such a military site is designated as a »special area for military use« in the development plan. The municipalities do not have the right to rededicate these areas independently. For example, in order to legally transform the site of a former barracks into a residential area in the development plan, at least the approval of the Federal Ministry of Defense is required beforehand.

The development of areas previously used by the military is usually a very long-term project for the municipalities. Even before the new use can be planned, the community first has to struggle with the real effects of abandoning the location of an army unit. The phlebotomy of the abandonment of the location is followed by the loss of purchasing power. That in turn destroys jobs. The importance of the place in the region is shrinking. In addition, the BImA is obliged to obtain a market price when selling land. Many municipalities are overwhelmed with the purchase and planning of conversion areas.

Key to a successful conversion

That is why investors are needed in practice to support urban planners in the design of the conversion of former military areas. Since reunification in 1990 and the associated withdrawal of Allied troops from Germany, there are already many positive examples of successful conversions.

Four success factors have proven to be significant over the decades:

  • A coordinated urban planning usage concept.
  • A clear project structure in which responsibilities, tasks and communication channels are clearly defined.
  • An early, open and comprehensible PR and public relations work that takes away any fears and worries of the local citizens and creates the greatest possible transparency about the project development. This is how you prevent possible resistance.
  • It should be checked at an early stage which funds from the available programs are available for the intended use. There is a risk that the full potential of the conversion will not be used because the funding programs are not fully exploited.

Examples of current conversion

The advantages and opportunities of a change of use for the municipalities are obvious. An uneconomical site, which in most cases is quite large, becomes an attractive residential area. Ideally, this will result in an increase in the community through the influx of new residents. And an upgrading of the place as a whole through the structural densification and modernization of the real estate portfolio.


This is a lighthouse project for the conversion of military land French quarter in Tübingen. After the French armed forces gave up their barracks at the beginning of the 1990s, a large area lay fallow in the middle of the southern part of the city. Its potential had to be tapped.

The city developed the site, sold the building sites to building cooperatives and made a significant contribution to the development of two new quarters. A good 1,000 new residents settled on the Loretto between 1996 and 2007. In addition, 100 companies set up shop and created around 500 jobs. Gastronomy, integration and sports and social facilities rounded off the offer. In the same period, space for 2,400 residents was created in the neighboring French quarter. The city planners intelligently closed the gaping gap in the southern part of the city. The decline in purchasing power and the loss of jobs due to the withdrawal of the French troops was mitigated by the urban developers by the settlement of new residents and businesses. The city planners have won numerous prizes for this, such as the European Urban Development Prize.


The real estate project is another example of conversion and thus the conversion of space previously used by the military into a new urban district Porta Nova in Trier. As part of the Porta Nova project, a former barracks area, which was used by the Federal Police until 2011, is being converted into a city quarter consisting of 12 individual residential buildings, an apartment block and a hotel. The property with an area of ​​approx. 24,492m² is located directly on the Moselle, only separated by a promenade.


The topic of conversion is also a unique opportunity for the city of Mannheim. With the withdrawal of the US Army, around 510 hectares are now available to the city and offer potential for business, residential, local recreation and infrastructure. Numerous initiatives and working groups submitted their ideas for the conversion areas and the renovation of the areas formerly used by the military is now in full swing. Find out more about the development of the city of Mannheim in the video:

Site closings as an opportunity for sustainable urban development projects

The Bundeswehr reform resolved in 2011 resulted in 31 locations being closed by 2016. The properties throughout Germany offer space for future-oriented concepts from potential investors. It opens up opportunities for cities and municipalities to implement new, modern living concepts and create value. A rededication does not always have to be as unusual from an architectural point of view as, for example, the development of Hamburg's Hafencity from an industrial area with quays and office buildings to an attractive and lively residential and business district close to the city center. Including Elbphilharmonie, the world's best concert hall. However, the odds outweigh the odds.

Investing in a conversion project is definitely worthwhile for investors. Attractive returns and solid increases in value are always possible with all of these projects. Especially since it is not uncommon for attractive locations close to town or city to be involved.

Railway areas are also popular conversion projects

Due to the abandonment of many freight yards that are no longer required and the closure of railway lines that are no longer used for rail operations, so-called "fillet pieces" are repeatedly released for development in many places. The reallocation of these conversion areas in inner-city areas is a challenge for urban planning. Their reward is the densification and the associated population growth as well as the construction of sought-after residential areas and business centers in sought-after districts and the creation of real real estate values.


  • The conversion of urban wastelands, industrial ruins and empty barracks buildings is an exciting field of activity in the field of urban planning and urban development.
  • Every project offers the chance of real renewal or expansion of existing locations.
  • The conversion often takes a long breath, as project development and changes to the development plans take some time and coordination.
  • In the end, however, a win-win situation arises that is a profitable business for cities and municipalities as well as for investors and builders.