20 July 2015 – El Confidencial
Almost four months have passed since Madrid Town Hall’s Department of Town Planning decided to suspend some of the construction work at the monumental Canalejas Project, as a precautionary measure. The council, which was led at the time by Ana Botella, took the decision because it considered that some of the demolition work being carried out by the Villar Mir Group was affecting certain areas that are protected due to their historical value and was exceeding the work permitted by the municipal licence.
Following the electoral change, the new team responsible for Town Planning at Madrid’s Town Hall, led by Manuela Carmena, seems willing to resolve this situation as soon as possible. According to sources close to the project, the council is working to create a technical committee that will allow the works to recommence, however the Town Hall has denied that this is the case, at least for the time being. (…).
At the end of 2012, the Villar Mir Group purchased seven buildings located on Plaza de Canalejas (number 1), Carrera de San Jerónimo (number 7) and Calle Alcalá (numbers 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14) from Banco Santander. The group paid more than €200 million for the buildings and with an additional investment of around €300 million, is going to create a unique complex that will house around thirty luxury homes, a shopping centre measuring 16,000 m2 spread across three floors and a five-star hotel to be operated by the Four Seasons chain with 215 rooms and measuring 26,000 m2.
To achieve this, all of the buildings need to be joined up and to make that possible, Madrid’s Town Hall (PP) changed the protection in place on some of the buildings a few months ago. Specifically, it reduced the ‘Building of Cultural Interest’ protection to the front bay (crujía) and roof of the building at Canalejas, 1 and the front bay (crujía) and patio at Alcalá, 14; it also reduced the protection on all of the buildings to confine it to the façades.
Suspension of the building work
And it was the work performed on the front bay (crujía) between Calle Alcalá, 14 and Plaza de Canalejas, 1 that led to the stoppage of the works, as the Town Hall considered that protected pillars, slabs and stairs had been demolished…Nevertheless, sources linked to the project say that all of the work has been performed in accordance with the scope of the licences granted. The rest of the works – which affected 90% of the complex – have continued in the meantime, in accordance with the licences obtained.
In order to resume the suspended work, the planning experts consulted say that the licence for the next phase of the work needs to be granted, i.e. the licence for the new construction work. And for that to happen, the construction company must legalise their actions. The creation of a technical committee could accelerate the process, whereby leaving the final decision in the hands of professionals and not Madrid’s Town Hall.
It is worth remembering that Canalejas, along with other projects such as Operación Chamartín, Campamento and the shopping centre that is planned for Madrid Río, are coming under the spotlight of the new mayoress, Manuela Carmena, who is now less critical of these projects than she was in her electoral program. Carmena recently met with Antonio Béjar, the head of the Distrito Castellana Norte project, and promised that she would evaluate the most important urban planning project in the capital.
Original story: El Confidencial (by Elena Sanz)
Translation: Carmel Drake