13 January 2016 – Expansión
The Chinese company Dalian Wanda is considering putting the iconic Edificio España building on the market. It acquired the property from Santander for €265 million in 2014, but is not being allowed to completely renovate it and convert it into a luxury hotel, with a retail space and homes.
The group founded and led by Wang Jianlin wanted to pull down the tower, located in Plaza de España (Madrid) and reconstruct its façade with a design that is identical to the current one, however the new Town Hall of Madrid, led by Manuela Carmena, has rejected those plans, on the basis that the façade must be protected as it forms part of the city’s artistic heritage.
After months of fruitless negotiations between the Asian company and the Town Hall to begin the construction work, Wanda has now decided to sell the building, according to several sources consulted by this newspaper.
As a preliminary step, Wanda Madrid Development has decided to close the office that it opened in the Spanish capital to carry out the remodelling of the iconic building, which has stood empty for many years.
Following the commotion caused by the plans set out by Jianlin, the wealthiest businessman in Asia, the Town Hall of Madrid said yesterday that it was not aware of any plans for the building to be sold.
Meanwhile, the PP’s spokesperson at the Town Hall, Esperanza Aguirre, asked the municipal Government to “think twice” and allow Wanda to demolish and reconstruct Edificio España from scratch, because losing the investment (opportunity) and the jobs that would result from the Asian group’s plans would have “very serious consequences”. The spokesperson for Cuidadanos, Begoña Villacís warned that, if the decision is confirmed “Madrid could become an investment desert” since it is “a city with lots of development projects on the table and investment opportunities that we must not miss out on”.
Despite the disagreements, Dalian Wanda, which also paid €45 million for a 20% stake in Atlético de Madrid last year, reaffirmed “its commitment” to “the citizens of Madrid” in October last year, as well as to the restoration of an “icon of the urban landscape”. The group confirmed that it was willing to hold “open and transparent dialogue, provided safety and the law are put first above everything else”.
At the end of November, the councillor for Urban Planning at the Town Hall, José Manuel Calvo, confirmed that the plans were moving ahead to enable the renovation work to start “as soon as possible”, although the administrative procedures must first be completed.
Madrid’s local historic heritage committee issued a binding ruling, which resolved that the façade must not be demolished or dismantled, but Wanda insisted that maintaining such a tall façade during the renovation work would be unsafe, which is why the company proposed that it be dismantled and then reconstructed.
Original story: Expansión (by R.R./A.F.)
Translation: Carmel Drake