US Embassy finally ready to move

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After years of planning and months of delays, the US Embassy in Oslo is finally set to move into its new complex at Huseby, north of downtown. The new embassy will be “open for business” from May 15, while the bidding for the embassy’s location for the past 58 years will begin in May as well.

The new US Embassy located at Morgedalsvegen 36 in Oslo’s Huseby district will open for business on May 15. PHOTO: Den amerikanske ambassade

It’s taken more than a decade to relocate the embassy, which long has needed more space and much higher security standards. Various sites offered by the city and state were turned down by US officials who finally settled on the new site at Morgedalsvegen 36 in Oslo’s Huseby district in June 2004.

That site set off a torrent of protests from local residents who did not want what they called a “terrorist target” in their neighbourhood. Concerns were also raised that any problems at the embassy would seriously disrupt traffic on the only main road through the area. It took another eight years before all the legal challenges were exhausted and construction could finally begin, in May 2012, after the neighbours had lost all their appeals.

The building process itself took another five years and it will now likely open without a US ambassador in Oslo on hand to oversee any ceremonies. Former US Ambassador Sam Heins, who had been appointed by US President Barack Obama, resigned his post and left Oslo in January, shortly before Donald Trump was sworn in as Obama’s replacement.

US Chargé d’Affaires Jim DeHart says he and his colleagues are “truly excited” about moving to the new embassy. PHOTO: Den amerikanske ambassade

The embassy’s chargé d’Affaires, Jim DeHart, stated in a press release Thursday that he and his colleagues were “truly excited” about the upcoming move. “We want our new embassy to be an extension of the great and enduring US-Norway relationship,” DeHart said, “and we look forward to being good neighbours and continuing to provide high-quality services to our visitors in this new facility.”

DeHart also called the new embassy “sustainable and green,” with the building exceeding “some of the strictest energy and sustainability codes in the world.”

The current embassy building is in the process of being sold,  with bidding due to begin in May. Designed by noted Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, the building has been a landmark in Oslo at its location just across from the Nobel Institute and Royal Palace grounds. It initially was designed as an open, accessible building featuring both a library and music library where the public could listen to American jazz, for example, and read American magazines, books and newspapers. Heightened security concerns ended all that and the building took on the nickname of “Fortress America” in Oslo, eventually surrounded by a high fence that also stirred public complaints when it was erected, and closed to the general public.

City officials hope new owners will open the building up again, but its future use remains unclear. The building is due to be put under preservation orders when the Americans move out. It covers 6,022 square meters over four floors plus a cellar. Brokers hope a sale can be completed this summer.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund