Construction has begun on the Great Berlin Wheel, a ferris wheel that will top the London Eye by 50 meters as the highest in Europe.
The 185-meter observation attraction is being built on an equipment yard adjacent to Zoo Berlin, on the western edge of the city's Tiergarten Park. City officials and project promoters held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site on Monday.
"The wheel will not be a nuisance to the city, but rather the opposite, an enrichment not just for the zoo, but for all of Berlin," said Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit.
The 120 million ($176 million) project is financed mainly by small private donations -- so far 10,000 individuals have contributed.
According to the daily Berliner Morgenpost, Wowereit praised the project for uniting investors from both East and West Berlin.
"That is not so common in Berlin," he told the paper.
Six thousand meters of steel cable will be used to construct the wheel, which will span a diameter of 175 meters. Thirty-six air conditioned cars, each with a capacity of 40 passengers, will rotate around the wheel at a top speed of 25 centimeters per second. One rotation will last 35 minutes.
The Berlin Wheel will be the second highest landmark in a city with few tall buildings. It will only be overshadowed by the 358-meter TV Tower, a Berlin icon in Alexanderplatz.
The project is managed by the Singapore-based Great Wheel Corporation, which is also building giant ferris wheels in two Chinese cities, as well as Dubai and Orlando.
After the wheel opens -- current projections are for late 2009 -- Berlin officials say it should draw two million visitors a year and create 100 jobs.
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