14 October 2015 – El Confidencial
Manuela Carmena does not know Rafa Benítez, the Head Coach of Real Madrid, or Dimas Gimeno, the Chairman of El Corte Inglés, according to comments made by the mayoress herself during some of her recent public appearances. But she has certainly met the right hand man of the richest person in the world, Wang Jianlin, who wants to develop the largest real estate and leisure project seen in Spain’s capital for many years.
According to sources close to both parties, Carmena met with Laurent Fischler, the right hand man of the Asian magnate and the head of the real estate division of Dalian Wanda Group on 2 October. Fischler arrived in the capital to try and unblock the dispute with the Town Hall of Madrid over the façade of Edificio España, located in the middle of the capital, which the Chinese group bought from Banco Santander for €265 million last year.
That was the first investment in Spain made by the multimillionaire businessman, who is estimated to have a fortune worth €42,600 million, or €38,200 million. The second was the acquisition of 20% of Club Atlético de Madrid for around €50 million. Both cases were small fry compared with this project, which involves the construction of a leisure complex in the south of Madrid and in which he is willing to invest €3,000 million in the first phase and up to €6,000 million in the second phase.
Sources close to the parties say that the conversation between Carmena and Fischler was good-natured. They discussed the renovation of the façade of Edificio España, proposed by Dalian Wanda Group, which the technicians from the Town Hall reject, as they refuse to accept that the demolition will enable the protected features of the building to remain intact. But one of the other central topics of the meeting was understanding the Town Hall’s position vis-à-vis its authorisation of the project known as “Chinese Eurovegas”, after the attempt by the US magnate Sheldon Adelson to construct a gaming city on the outskirts of Madrid.
Wang’s project does not include casinos or bingos or anything of the sort; in fact it is centred around attraction parks, leisure complexes and a real estate development that requires the approval of the Ministry of Defence, the owner of the land where the Chinese magnate hopes to construct his complex, and the Town Hall of Madrid. The Ministry of Defence, which will officially announce the public auction of the 2.1 million m2 land, which used to house the former military barracks of Campamento, in a couple of weeks, has already approved the project, in accordance with the Government’s instructions, after Mariano Rajoy gave his blessing to the project a year ago during a trip to Beijing.
So far, Carmena has not said whether or not she supports this project, which would involve the regeneration of one of the capital’s most “run down” neighbourhoods, a description made by the mayoress herself. Although her electoral program included a comprehensive review of the urban plans and an inspection of the major building projects, such as Operación Chamartín, the former judge has already held meetings with Pedro Morenés, the Defence Minister, to discuss the construction of the complex.
In theory, although their ideologies separate them conceptually, Ahora Madrid and the PP do see eye to eye on this macro-project, which would result in the creation of thousands of jobs (direct and indirect), and the regeneration of the transport network in the southeast of the capital, as well as a significant cash inflow for the central and municipal administrations. They just need to overcome the concerned raised by one neighbourhood association and one group of ecologists, which have been protesting against the renewal of the area.
Original story: El Confidencial (by Agustín Marco)
Translation: Carmel Drake