Special Fund StadtLand Thüringen

Special Fund StadtLand Thüringen

Saving vacant properties: Securing land for the long term

The ‘Sondervermögen StadtLand Thüringen’ (StadtLand Thüringen Trust Fund) provides funding for permanently securing land and vacant buildings for revitalisation and alternative use concepts. Using the instrument of heritable building rights, the special fund founded in April 2020 by the trias Foundationand the IBA Thüringen provides long-term stability for properties of particular value throughout Thuringia. The initial incentive was to permanently secure the future of the ‘Sommerfrische’ architecture in the valley of the Schwarzatal. The first site to benefit from the fund is the IBA project Haus Bräutigam in Schwarzburg.

On 4 December 2020, the trias Foundation acquired two plots of land in the Schwarzatal as sites of special significance for the region: that of Haus Döschnitzand of Haus Bräutigamin Schwarzburg. Both are IBA projects that are currently being reactivated by associations in Berlin and Weimar who intend to develop these former historical summer retreats as new places for meeting, working and recreation. The constellation of protagonists creates new links between the town and the country, bring value to the region. Each association then signs a leasehold agreement with the trias Foundation for the future use of the site. As Rolf Novy-Huy, managing director of the trias Foundation, explains: “The combination of committed local involvement coupled with professional expertise can give an old building an entirely new and exciting perspective. Heritable building rights together with the fund provides a secure basis for the projects in the Schwarzatal to pursue their goals and deepen their commitment to the region.”

For the use of the land, the foundation charges a ground rent which in turn is used to fund its own charitable purposes, to finance new projects and to run the foundation. The ability to transfer land to the StadtLand Thüringen Trust Fund as a property under long-term non-profit management is open to owners of other vacant or under-used properties as well to project initiatives and groups in Thuringia that see land as a common good and want to establish sustainable, community-oriented projects under predictable long-term conditions. In the process they join a network of other solidarity-oriented house projects and neighbourhood and village initiatives.

Till Hoffmann from the Haus Bräutigam associationexplains that they consciously “decided against ownership and opted for hereditary building rights and a leasehold agreement as it secures the long-term existence of the project for the common good. An added benefit is that our ground rent can help fund future projects in the region.”

Without the association’s intervention Haus Bräutigam would soon have been beyond saving. Now, instead of falling into gradual disrepair while waiting in vain for an investor, the building is being given a second chance as a place for short-term living and working.

Hannes Langguth from the Haus Döschnitz association: “Heritable building rights enable all parties to work on an equal footing towards a long-term communal purpose. It is a great opportunity for Thuringian municipalities to use ground leases as an effective instrument for sustainably managing their public assets in the medium term.”

Built in the 18th century as a residence for a brewery owner, and previously a refuge for displaced persons, the local mayor’s office, a hunting lodge and most recently the local history museum, Haus Döschnitz has had a rich and varied past. Together with local protagonists, the Haus Döschnitz Association is developing the building into a place for education and research, culture and history, and living and working that bridges the urban and the rural and aims to create new impulses for the region and beyond. Photo: Dörthe Hagenguth

As Marta Doehler-Behzadi, managing director of the IBA Thuringia, explains: “land and property is a finite resource, and we must work with it responsibly. Together with trias Foundation, we have established a formal structure through which land can be secured for the community and the common good rather than having to survive as a ‘going concern’ in the marketplace. This model has been successful in many large cities where civic initiatives would not be able to survive in the context of inflated property markets. In the rural areas of Thuringia, however, demographic growth and conventional investment models do not drive development and we therefore need new models of ownership, new operating concepts and new development structures that can enable committed citizens and initiatives to realise their ideas and to help develop the StadtLand sustainably.” 


The trias Foundation was founded in 2002 to support and promote people and projects that seek answers to the social questions of land speculation, ecological ways of living and social cohabitation. It is a civic foundation with a specific purpose that draws its assets from a broad range of citizens.

Since 2014, the IBA Thüringen has worked intensively with numerous project initiatives and stakeholders to find alternative ways to salvage and develop vacant properties in the region. A regional area of focus in the Schwarzatal valley, which has many abandoned old buildings. Together with the ‘Zukunftswerkstatt Schwarzatal’ association, the IBA has been exploring ways to sustainably reactivate the region, both architecturally and socially. The annual ‘Sommerfrische Open Day’, the recently completed Rottenbach Railway station project, the revitalised Schwarzburg Castle and the two examples of ‘Sommerfrische’ architecture, Haus Bräutigam and Haus Döschnitz, have helped raised the profile of the region. The challenge now is to transition this initial interest into a sustainable process and to enable alternative use concepts as a motor for long-term social and economic development in the region and for the community.