19 February 2015 – Expansión
The Town Hall will approve the operation of a conference centre and the construction of a five star hotel in exchange from the renovation of the complex, which will also include a retail area.
It is one of the most iconic buildings in Madrid’s financial district, in particular due to the mural on its facade, designed by the artist Joan Miró.
Built in the 1960s and located on the Paseo de la Castellana, opposite the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, Madrid’s Conference Centre (Palacio de Congresos) has been closed for two years due to the poor state of its facilities, which violate basic safety standards.
But today, the Town Hall expects to approve a plan for the comprehensive remodelling of the site and in addition, to construct a luxury hotel that could have up to 23 floors.
According to sources close to the transaction, the Town Hall will invite tenders for the renovation of the Palacio and the construction of a hotel that do not result in any cost to the taxpayer: the successful bidder will complete the building work, estimated to amount to €86 million, in exchange for a licence to operate the entire complex.
In other words, the management of the Palacio and hotel will be in private hands, but ownership of the space will continue to remain with the public. “The role of the State should be to promote different types of tourism, but given the quantity of highly prestigious tour operators in our country, the best option is for them to take care of the management to ensure we provide state-of-the-art facilities”, explained an internal document about the operation.
Both the Town Hall and the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, have been very involved in the process. They want the new Palacio to be an engine for attracting “sophisticated, profitable” tourists with “higher added value and greater spending power”, which is why one of the requirements of the tender is that the hotel be a five star facility, “capable of meeting the highly specialised demand for conferences and meetings”, said the document.
In theory, the Government will oversee the aesthetics and architectural modelling of the project, which will not affect the Miró mural under any circumstances. The halls in the new building, designed especially to host professional conferences and large events, must have the latest technology and the best audiovisual facilities and scenography. Similarly, the new complex will have to provide a catering service for at least 1,800 diners.
The current surface area of the Palacio is 40,000 square metres, although since the partial remodelling plan approved in 2001, it has been allowed to increase that to 47,000 sqm; additional space that could be used to build the hotel. Moreover, the space available to construct “compatible” businesses (shops, high-end boutiques, travel agencies, etc.) will increase from 25% of the current total surface area up to 35%. The only business that the tender excludes from being housed in this space are large superstores, reflecting its goal of ensuring that the Palacio does not become a kind of shopping centre. “Other compatible uses will be permitted, but the main use will continue to be as a conference centre”, says the report.
Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)
Translation: Carmel Drake