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ECB to spend €1bn o­n new HQ

City A.M. Reporter
The European Central Bank (ECB) yesterday gave itself the go-ahead to build a new €1bn (£890m), 48-storey HQ, giving it a permanent home for the first time and drawing a line under years of delays and setbacks.

The proposed design in Frankfurt’s rundown east end has two twisted interlocking towers built round the city’s former wholesale fruit and vegtable market, used by the Nazis as a collection point for Jewish prisoners during World War II.

The ECB was forced to put the project on ice late last year after only one firm bid to build the giant skyscraper, and at well over twice the original budget.

It pushed back the move-in date by two and a half years to mid-2014 and opted to start over again with the tender process, slicing the project into 12 separate parts, ranging from building the steel skeleton to fitting out the meeting rooms.

ECB executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said the financial crisis and the central bank’s decision to divide up the work helped put the project back on track.

“To be frank the general economic situation helped,” he said. “Last time our tender coincided with the peak of the (commodity market) bubble. This time we got the benefits of the bursting of the bubble.”

The ECB had a budget to build the main structure of the skyscraper of €500m at 2005 prices. Once land costs, a six to 20 per cent rise in prices since 2005, and decorating and furnishing costs are added, the final costs are expected to top €1bn.

The ECB, which sets interest rates for the 16 countries that use the euro, is outgrowing its current quarters as more countries join the currency bloc and it takes on new responsibilities.