A corpse has been languishing for years at the gates of Madrid Río. Although it has some profitable businesses on the outside (the well-known Carlos Sainz Center circuit and some fast food restaurants), walking through the interior of La Ermita Shopping Center is walking through a ghost space, without people, with Christmas lights still on its facade and most of the closed premises. Many for years. Hoping for a better future.
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The future that its owners have thought of for this space of almost 50,000 square meters, with the approval of the Madrid City Council, is very different from that of a shopping center: the council has just proposed a reclassification of the land to allow the construction of 536 floors distributed in several buildings, two of them towers of 21 and 28 floors that can be seen from many points around this privileged area of the capital. The operation will generate enormous benefits, according to the documents consulted by Somos Madrid.
The numbers of the operation are clear: the shopping center is currently valued at 17.65 million euros and the council calculates that the transformed land will amount to 81.78 million, once all the costs of demolition and construction have been deducted. Almost five times its current value. The increase will be achieved using a common tool in any real estate hit: requalify the land that now has sports use -less valued- to enable the construction of homes.
The project plans to distribute 58,428 m2 of flats in six buildings, with landscaped surroundings. A small part of them -15,726 m2- will be flats with limited price protection and the rest -42,702 m2- free housing, without any ceiling on its price, which will be high thanks to its privileged location, a stone’s throw from Madrid Río. In a real estate environment that is changing completely, due to the new developments that are being built just opposite, on the land around Mahou-Calderón. In these houses, the project plans to “incorporate young segments of family units in the neighborhood and new residents,” reads the documentation consulted by this newspaper.
To adorn the lucrative real estate proposal, the project plans to create a central square to locate a replica of a 19th century site that was nearby: the Quinta del Sordo, an estate where the painter Goya lived before his exile. Below there will be a large parking lot of almost 8,000 m2. Streets will be opened in the surrounding area to facilitate passage from Calle Sepúlveda and 15,365 m2 of green areas will be added, in an area where the Caramuel and Cuña Verde de Latina parks already exist. In addition, another 1,200 m2 of undefined private facilities are planned.
The Urban Development area defends this “transformational action” which it says is based “on the general interest and on the principles of sustainable development”, according to the project report. Almeida’s team justifies the action because “the existing building and facilities, in which sports and commercial tertiary uses coexist with low intensity in their activity, is considered obsolete”, in addition to “a great obstacle to the permeability of the area”.
The two Towers
One of the elements that have called the most attention to the project is the appearance of two enormous towers of houses in the recreations. They will have 28 and 21 floors around the square and will be visible from numerous points in the city. They will exclusively house flats without a price cap, key to achieving the hefty expected profitability figures.
The City Council justifies building towers much higher than the buildings that surround them because there are already others on the banks of the Manzanares, such as those flanking the Segovia Bridge -21 floors-, those of the Praga Building -19 heights- or the Riverside tower of Legazpi -23 floors-. The planned 28-story building would break the record in Madrid Río. The Urban Development area defends its elevation in a report of more than a hundred pages that concludes: “The final landscape impact of the proposed planning in its area of visual influence is evaluated as moderate”, which excludes the project from “development of landscape integration measures”, he assures in the text that accompanies the file, consulted by Somos Madrid.
The announcement of the operation in the Ermita del Santo appeared discreetly in the Official Gazette of the Community of Madrid on August 22, but it was not until a few days ago, on September 7, when a newspaper –The confidential– was echoed, describing the municipal movement as a “pitch”. That same day, the Urban Development delegate, Mariano Fuentes (Citizens), defined this action in his area as an “urban regeneration project”, which will take “green as an element of union of the urban fabric”. “It will be 50,000 m2 of new life,” he assured, linking to a news item in El Mundo, much less critical of the performance.
Some residents of the area are not so clear about the benefits of an urban development operation that will change the appearance of their neighborhood and are organizing to present allegations to the plan: “This ball brings overcrowding, more pollution, more traffic and the collapse of public services in the neighborhood, already insufficient”, they explain in a letter distributed this week, in which they recall that the deadline to oppose the action in writing officially ends on October 2.
The allusions to the increase in traffic and pollution come from the planned construction of the aforementioned large underground car park, which will go under the central square. It will be municipally owned and could hold up to 1,089 places, which are the ones that the municipal teams calculate as necessary to carry out the operation.
Behind this operation is the company Espacio Ermita SL, a company with Venezuelan capital that, with different changes, was established 21 years ago and has Alberto Enrique Finol Galué as its sole administrator. The project calculates that it will need an investment of 156 million in the coming years to complete the entire development.
The operation of La Ermita has been cooking since the time of Ana Botella at the head of Cibeles, when the first requalification proposal for residential use was proposed, with a first exposure of the project to public information, a couple of months before the elections. But the arrival at the mayor’s office of Manuela Carmena truncated the plans. In 2016, the government of Ahora Madrid ruled out the plan until it achieved “an adequate and sufficient weighting of the public needs of the environment and the adequate combination and balance of uses”.
With Almeida in the mayor’s office and Ciudadanos in the Urban Development area, the idea was resumed in 2020 and was made public a few days ago, with the first step of exposing the project to the public. The process is still long but the City Council is working to advance the deadlines as much as possible before the elections. The urbanization and building works will be completed, according to the project report, from the year 2030.