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U.S. embassy moves to location in nearby Wassenaar

Leaves city centre within five years

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - A final decision has been made to build a new United States Embassy at a location on the outskirts of the city. The municipality of The Hague has designated the former dog racing track in Wassenaar as the site for the new embassy building, which is scheduled to open in 2011.

Controversy has surrounded the current location of the embassy as well as the sites deemed appropriate during the negotiation process about the re-location. The current embassy building, near The Hague’s historic Parliament complex, is surrounded by security barriers and checkpoints in an area where space for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and cars is at a high premium. In particular after the September 2001 tragedy at the New York World Trade Center, security measures around the embassy were increased, leading the city to close off streets and divert traffic.

Two years ago, the U.S. government had opted to move the embassy to the environmentally sensitive Clingendael estate, also in Wassenaar. That plan was met with scorn from both municipalities and eventually was shelved. Clingendael is one of the best and best-maintained estates in the Netherlands. It is located in the so-called green zone, a protected environmental barrier between urban centres. Although located in Wassenaar, the estate is owned by the City of The Hague.

The Hague officials had proposed three other locations to the Americans although the U.S. government had set its sights on Clingendael. The new agreement about the future embassy site put the matter to rest after the U.S. Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations gave green light for the location.

Some of the U.S. requirements are standard for any embassy abroad. These include a minimum of 4 hectares (10 acres) for the site and that the building has a 30-meters security buffer zone, currently a serious concern at the downtown location.

The agreement between the two governments and the two municipalities puts the project on the way to the following steps, which include public hearings and other zoning requirements. As was the case with Clingendael, the dog track site also is owned by the City of The Hague, which now must find a new location for the greyhound racing club facility.

The fortress-like embassy at Lange Voorhout was designed by Bauhaus-architect Marcel Breuer and built in 1957.