At first, the idea might sound a little weird: who'd want to pay money to stay in an old jail? But the Neudeck prison will soon be a four-star hotel offering its guests a chance to lend a helping hand while being pampered during their stay in the Bavarian capital.
The organization BISS, which distributes Germany's oldest street newspaper sold by homeless people, is buying the prison under to a run a socially conscious business aimed at employing people with troubled backgrounds.
The Neudeck prison currently houses women prisoners, as well as a few teenagers. But BISS will invest some €13 million to turn it into a luxury hotel by 2011.
This posh jailhousr is bound to pose a few contradictions. “Young people from difficult socio-economic situations will receive top-notch job training,” said project leader and BISS chief Hildegard Denninger. She said the programme would help teenagers who until now have known only violence, crime, drugs and lack of direction. For her, it's thoroughly imaginable for these young people to cheerfully serve the hotel's privileged guests. “None of our guests will need to look the other way,” Denninger promised.
Her plan has three stages: purchasing, remodeling, and opening the hotel. The first hurdle has just been cleared: an endowment in state of Bavaria has pledged €2.5 million for the purchase of the building, which is protected under landmark status. The 120 prisoners will be relocated to Stadelheim jail, also located in Munich. “The move is expected to take place in April 2009,” state spokesperson Stefan Lenzenhuber said.
Denninger plans to employ 14 hotel professionals to train 10-15 young trainees per year. BISS already has candidates for “key positions” in mind. These include three employees with more than one specialization – both as a cook and social worker, for example. Employees from five-star hotels will also be recruited.
She is already counting on support from prominent quarters around town. Munich actresses Uschi Glas and Senta Berger, FC Bayern manager Uli Hoeneß, director Sönke Wortmann and the rock band Sportfreunde Stiller have contributed to the Hotel-BISS endowment. Sportfreunde Stiller musicians have praised the project for maintaining humanitarian objectives while at the same time paying its own way.
BISS Magazine homeless vendors are also keeping their fingers crossed for their employer. Ercan Urzun, who sells the magazine on Sendlinger Torplatz in Munich, said some also have concerns. “It is a double-burden for the boss. When the new project is up, the old one might wobble,” Uzun said.