Renovation of the Sofiensäle

City subsidies of the planned renovation of the Sofiensäle (Sophia Halls) into rental apartments and public cultural spaces have sparked controversy, according to a Dec. 6 article in the Austrian daily Der Standard.

An investment of € 2 million was granted by the City of Vienna to the Ifa Finanzgruppe, a subsidiary of Carinthian Soravia, that has bought the 12,000 square metre property, for a “historically-sensitive restoration” – although the bulk of the work concerns the inner courtyard and outer façade of the building.

The grant from the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs has raised questions as to the necessity of these subsidies, as critics say that the market value of Sofiensäle would support  finding a private investor to cover the costs.

“The preservation of the Sofiensäle are in the public interest, ” said Renate Rapf, spokesperson of the city’s Cultural Minister Andreas Mailath-Pokorny (SPÖ), defending the plan.

For the year 2010, €4 millions have been allocated to cultural projects. Instead of returning the remaining funds to the Finance Office, the subsidy for the Sofiensäle appeared “the more sensible solution.”

Hannah Stadlober

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