Demolition begins at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport to be converted into National Park

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Demolition at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport began as workers started bulldozing and dismantling unused cargo terminals, kick-starting the long process that will see the nation’s former aviation hub turned into a monumental garden.

With a team of 100 construction workers, the initial phase aims to remove unused parts of the cargo terminal, as the airport is still being used by some military, private and cargo flights. According to officials, all materials salvaged from this work are being recycled to reduce waste.

The airport, which was among Europe’s five busiest airports during at its peak, was closed to commercial flights after the opening of Istanbul Airport on Oct. 29. The initial plan was to cease all operations at Atatürk Airport after Istanbul Airport reached its full operating potential, but Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said Atatürk Airport would remain operational within a limited scope for the time being. The airport also continues to serve flights for Turkish and foreign officials.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last year that the airport will be turned into an expansive “People’s Garden,” but the details of the project have not yet been finalized.

Atatürk Airport was initially established as a military airfield during the final years of the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and started serving as an airport in 1953. Initially known as the Yeşilköy Airport, after the neighborhood where it is located, it was later renamed after the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1985.

Once Turkey’s gateway to the world, it was replaced by Istanbul Airport due to increasing capacity needs. Istanbul Airport currently serves 90 million passengers but will accommodate a total of 200 million once all of its phases are complete.