Tesla has responded to local protests at the site of their next factory near Berlin by opening a community office to hear local concerns, according to Der Spiegel.  The office opens Thursday, just a few days after site protests began.

About 50 protesters gathered at the gigafactory site earlier this week to protest the plan.  Their main concern was about the lack of public participation in the project.

Tesla will now open a community office to hear those public concerns, as confirmed by Jörg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s minister of economics. Steinbach hopes that the opening of the community office will help to relax the situation between the protesters and Tesla.

The plan to build Tesla’s European gigafactory was first announced in November, when CEO Elon Musk stated the factory would be built in the “Berlin area.”

We later learned that the factory would be built near the municipality of Grünheide, next to the GVZ Berlin-Ost Freienbrink industrial park. The plot of land Tesla has chosen is about 300 hectares, or 741 acres.

When the factory is built, Tesla plans to build roughly half a million Model 3 and Y vehicles, primarily for European consumption, per year — in addition to possible future vehicles.

If all goes well, the first phase of construction should be up and running in July 2021, allowing deliveries of locally built Teslas in the European Union.

The final $45 million purchase contract was approved by local authorities last week, but has not yet been signed by Tesla. A signature is expected by the end of this week.

But the site for the factory is on what is currently a forest, which will need to be cleared to make room for the factory. Tesla committed to planting 3x as many trees as they cut down for the factory, and a special permit will be required to move hibernating endangered bats from the site.

Tesla’s July 2021 timeline means they were planning to finish clearing the forested areas by the beginning of March, and those plans could be put in jeopardy by protests and environmental requirements.

Tesla hopes that this community office will allay the concerns of the public and show that they want to be receptive to input. Tesla’s community office is an attempt to “embrace the new neighbors,” said Der Spiegel.

The community office will be open in Grünheide on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., from January 16 through February 4.

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