Madrid to Revive the Heart of Its Financial District

25 May 2015 – Expansión

PROJECT / Large realtors as GMP, companies historically present in the area such as El Corte Inglés and the Madrid City Hall come together to renovate Azca, the capital’s business district.

On May 8, Corporación Financiera Alba, the investment arm of the March family, officially announced the purchase of Ahorro Corporación’s headquarters, a building located on Paseo de la Castellana, 89, in Madrid for 147 million euros.

Months earlier, in January, the GMP real estate company bought another property, located at number 77, for a total of approximately 90 million.

In December, El Corte Inglés acquired a plot located next to Gmp’s new building, for which it shelled out 136 million.

In total, these operations represent nearly 400 million euros of investment within a radius of barely 300 meters and a new stage for Azca – the area that is being revamped so it can maintain its position as the capital’s financial district, which it has held for decades. “The purchase of the building on Castellana 89 is a financial investment within our aim to boost buying in ‘prime’ areas, and that is a fully operational property in an unbeatable area,” explained managers at Corporación Financiera Alba.

The new owner of Castellana 89 rules out renovating the building, since its seller, Ahorro Corporación, and the other tenants will remain in the building. “It has been recently renovated and has very acceptable conditions,” they added.

“We believe in Azca. That’s why we have two buildings in the area, but there are some improvements to be made in the area, not only in the property,” says Xabier Barrondo, CEO of GMP. The real estate company owns office buildings: Torre Ederra, newly acquired and located on Castellana 77; and Torre BBVA, which the company bought in a pool of properties eight years ago and that is also situated along the Castellana.

In both properties, the company is working on renovation plans. “We bought 77 in January. It had been vacant for four years and our goal is to renovate it entirely; give more space in the interior and height to the floors, and the facade will have a new look to turn it into a representative building,” explains Barrondo. Meanwhile, construction works in the famous Torre Ederra, former headquarters of Saint Gobain, have already begun and are expected to finish in 2017.

Torre BBVA

 In the case of Torre BBVA, the landmark building is still occupied by the bank, which will leave it in the coming months, although the bank’s senior management will remain in the upper floors. That’s when GMP will address its renovation, with works on a much smaller scale than in its neighbor, building 77. “Number 81 is a Madrid icon. It is a landmark and has a certain degree of protection, making it a highly valued property. The renovation will consist of an upgrade of the office area, with more open and flexible spaces, while sprucing up the facade will barely be noticeable.”

Of the 38,000-square-meter space on Castellana 81, 32,000 square meters of offices, currently occupied by BBVA, will be rented out to various tenants, while  building 77 is meant for a single tenant.

Not only is GMP renovating its two buildings, but it has also signed an agreement with the city to refurbish two public squares (“plazas” in Spanish) next to Castellana 77 (Torre Ederra). “We want to improve access (which is now made possible through an interior entrance in Azca’s network of pedestrian tunnels) both in terms of aesthetics and accessibility.” In total, the operation consists of renovating 3,000 square meters. Works that are planned to start within a year.

Renovating pedestrian space will cost 668,565 euros. “With the renovation of the two buildings and the access area, we will invest 45 million euros,” says the CEO of GMP.

The joint agreement to renovate access from Torre Ederra to Castellana is part of an action plan that the city of Madrid signed six months ago with several property owners in the area to revamp Azca. During the first phase of the project, they will renovate Plaza Carlos Trias Bertran, in the heart of Azca and where the iconic skyscraper Torre Picasso, owned by Amancio Ortega, is located.

In this renovation, which will cost approximately 1.9 million euros, the “obstacles and physical aspects that create nooks, hinder vision and feeling about lack of safety” will be eliminated, as explained at Madrid City Hall. The city’s Council will cover 26% of the investment and the rest will be covered by the contributions of five owners of properties in Azca: El Corte Inglés, Metrovacesa, Astaez 2011 and insurance companies Mapfre and Spain SA National Insurance Company.

In addition to these two operations that have already been given the green light, new projects to upgrade the area might soon be accepted as well. “This initiative is meant to keep Azca as the economic and financial heart of Madrid and, at the same time, restore an area that is meant for leisure, culture and the general public” said Ana Botella, Mayor of Madrid during the presentation of the project.

Original story: Expansión (by R. Ruiz)

Translation: James Leahu