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Nazi air raid shelter may become luxury penthouse

A German advertising executive has announced plans to turn a former Nazi air-raid shelter, designed to protect 2,000 Berliners from Second World War bombing, into a luxurious penthouse complete with its own art gallery.

The project is the brainchild of 40-year-old Christian Boros, a part-time art collector and Frankfurt-based adman who visited the seven-storey concrete bunker on eastern Berlin's Albrechtstrasse three years ago when it was hosting techno parties.

"It was love at first sight. I went out and bought the bunker right away," Mr Boros said of the building that is located only yards away from the site of Heinrich Himmler's Gestapo headquarters. The bunker was ordered and partially designed by Adolf Hitler in 1941 to protect Berlin residents from the increasing number of Allied air attacks that were devastating the capital of the Third Reich.

Its 2.6m-thick steel-reinforced concrete walls ensured that the structure survived the war, unlike most buildings around it. In 1945 it was occupied by the Red Army and used as a prison for German soldiers.

All post-war attempts to demolish the building failed because of the sheer strength of the massive walls. East Germany's Communist regime gave up and decided to use the bunker as a warehouse for clothing and dried fruit instead.

After German reunification in 1990, the bunker was briefly rented by artists and used as a venue for techno parties during the city's Love Parade.

Berlin's city government has been at a loss over what to do about the grey concrete eyesore for decades. Although the structure is a listed building, considered of historical importance, planners have pointed out that it occupies what would be a prime development site, slap in the centre of reunited Berlin.

Mr Boros may have come to the rescue with his plans to lend one of the city's ugliest buildings a touch of flair. He plans to turn the top of the bunker into a penthouse measuring 450 square metres that would be Berlin's most luxurious city centre apartment. However he refused to disclose what he paid for the building or how much the conversion will cost.

"It will be like James Bond - very cool - with exposed concrete and glass," he promised.

The rest of the bunker will house his own private art collection.