14 May 2015 – El Confidencial
Ana Botella has met with opposition from several members of her own party regarding the progress of the largest urban development in Spain, which was due to involve an investment of almost €6,000 million.
“I would like to settle the future of Operación Chamartín…it would be a real shame if the project does not go ahead”. Those were the statements made by Ana Botella in an interview with El País on Sunday, in which the now almost former Mayoress (of Madrid) summed up her legislature. With this assertion, she responded to a question about what was left for her to do and what she would like to finish before leaving. However, despite recent attempts by BBVA, the main shareholder, to push ahead with the largest real estate development in Madrid, the project that has been renamed Castellana Norte does not seem to be able to get off the ground.
According to sources at the capital’s Town Hall and shareholders of Dutch (the property development company), an extraordinary council meeting will not be held on Thursday to approve what was going to be the largest urban development in Spain. That is because 14 May is the last logical day from a political point of view for the authorisation of the new partial urban plan that would have to include the extension of the Paseo de la Castellana, promoted by BBVA and Construcciones San José.
Botella, has tried to the end to convince other members of the PP to approve a project that has been blocked since 1993 and which, was going involve an investment of €5,974 million. Of that amount, €3,300 million was going to flow to the coffers of the three Public Administrations involved in the project – the Town Hall of Madrid, the Community of Madrid and the Ministry of Development – and so the interest of all of these parties was evident.
Those figures were announced at the launch of the operation, an act that was blessed with the presence of the Chairman of BBVA, Francisco González, the Minister for Development, Ana Pastor, the Mayoress, Ana Botella and the President of the Community (of Madrid), Ignacio González. From that photo, two of the politicians are no longer in their roles and the owner of the infrastructure is waiting to see what happens in the general election. “There is no other project like this anywhere in the world”, said the Chief Executive of BBVA, the primary shareholder with 75% of the developer’s share capital, who added that “I don’t know if it will be profitable for the bank, but it will be for Madrid”.
The Director of Real Estate at BBVA, Antonio Béjar, has been putting pressure on Botella until the last minute to obtain authorisation for the project despite the opposition from various members of the PP and the reluctance shown by the Minister for Development. (…).
From the ranks of the municipal Government, they say that the 2,000 complaints made by various groups less than two weeks before the municipal and autonomous community elections make the approval of Operación Chamartín impossible. The authorisation would have been used by the opposition parties to link the PP to the financial system and the so-called “casta”, especially if we take into account that some voices link the arrival of Francisco González as the President of BBVA with that of José María Azar to the Government.
Sources at Dutch are confident that Castellana Norte will receive support from the new local government that emerges from the municipal elections on 24 May. Above all, because they consider that it will represent a significant economic boost for the capital, something which, in theory, no one should oppose. That has been recognised half-heartedly by the various opposition parties, such as the PSOE and Ciudadanos. But at the same time, they recognise that the (likely) diversity of the next local government will make any agreement more difficult, especially if we also take into account that there will be general elections in November and that the project also needs to be approved by the Ministry for Development.
The Castellana Norte District project involves extending the capital’s main thoroughfare by 3.7 kilometres and creating a new area where 17,000 new homes would be build, thanks to the burial (move underground) of the train tracks at Chamartín Station. The macro-project includes a green area measuring 24 hectares, two business areas with the construction of several skyscrapers of up to 320 metres tall and a new stop on the local train network.
Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)
Translation: Carmel Drake