Thursday, October 6

Almeida’s mortgages at 30, 40 and 75 years: privatization of squares, car parks and transfers to the Church

“Without public space, there is no city,” councilor Marta Higueras, from the Mixed Group, warned this week on social networks. A phrase with which she alluded to the intentions of the Madrid City Council to hand over the management of more than 58,000 m2 of streets and squares in the financial district to private initiative. The news, advanced exclusively by this newspaper, puts on the table the debate on how the public space of the capital should be managed and whether a mayor can mortgage the city with terms that far exceed his legislature, even beyond his time vital.

Transfers to 75 years: Almeida’s formula to deliver 250,000 m2 of public land to the Church, foundations and Atlético de Madrid

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“40 years of privatization, 40. Almeida will leave but we will pay for his destruction for many years,” lamented the socialist mayor Enma López on the same matter, recalling the deadline set by the concessionaire of the project in AZCA. “The only thing that Almeida has done this mandate is to give the heritage of all to a few. For them, the city is just a business”, explained the municipal spokesperson for Más Madrid, Rita Maestre, emphasizing the concessions planned for the final stretch of this legislature.

The list is long and has grown in recent weeks: on the one hand, there are the five plots that are going to be ceded to 75 years and that we analyzed a few days ago in this article. Of these, three will be for the Catholic Church, which is facilitated to build temples through a public competition tailored to its needs. Two other plots will go to foundations, one of them with clear links to the PP. And the land around the Metropolitan Stadium is going to be transferred to Atlético de Madrid for 75 years so that it can set up its sports city and a shopping center with a hotel included. In all these cases, the city will recover the land in the year 2097, a date more typical of science fiction novels than of newspaper news.

On the other hand, there are assignments for works, which include the exploitation of an infrastructure during the years necessary to cover the required investment and the benefit for the private party that provides the capital. The city council is using them for the construction of sports centers without spending the municipal budget, in eight points of Madrid: Cuatro Caminos, Montecarmelo, Las Rosas, Las Tablas, Barajas, Sanchinarro, Arganzuela and Paseo de la Dirección. In all these places the concession will be for at least 25 years, until 2047.

The model of transfer of works is also being used by the Mobility area to re-privatize the most profitable car parks in the capital, as they are recovered from decades of exploitation. During the term of Manuela Carmena, these were managed by the Municipal Transport Company (EMT), but Almeida’s team preferred to hand it over to private initiative and forego its substantial benefits. The result, moreover, is costing future subscribers to these facilities: when awarding the management of the Santo Domingo car park, the Madrid City Council has chosen the offer of one of the companies that will be more expensive for residents. Just like he did in the Carmen parking lot. In the first case the exploitation will last ten years. In the second it will reach 2044.

The macro works of the Bernabéu and the AZCA case

Before the end of the legislature, it is planned to line up the public car park concessions in Santa Ana, Cortes, Luna and three others in Velazquez, whose concessions expire soon. And the Mobility area wants to leave tied for decades by what could happen in the elections. To them will be added another one on a car park, but of a quite different nature: that of the underground next to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Unlike the previous ones, this work has been requested to be carried out by Real Madrid. The white entity drafted the pertinent informative study for the construction and operation of 1,667 parking spaces for 30 years, until 2053. The City Council validated it and, along the way, rejected all the allegations presented against the Florentino Pérez club project. Now it is preparing the tender in a public contest to which the soccer entity will be able to attend with a clear advantage: it will obtain 10% more points than any other private company with an interest in the project, for having presented the idea.

The same model of concession of works to companies follows the case of Renazca, the privatization of the AZCA area revealed this week in this newspaper, which includes exploiting 58,594 m2 of public land for 40 years in exchange for redevelopment works, also charging two million a year to the City Council for maintaining it and cleaning the streets. “We don’t look like that project, the Real Madrid thing is a way to finance the club and ours is a non-profit entity,” the CEO of the Merlin Properties socimi, Ismael Clemente, hastened to tell this medium. who is at the head of the initiative, while defending the opportunity of his proposal to revitalize the traditional financial center of the capital.

“The case of Renazca represents a level leap in all these concessions, both in terms of scale, as well as the actors involved and their permanence,” explains the architect and urban planner Álvaro Ardura, who points out that the existing legislation provides for long terms in the concessions for investments of much greater depth, in which private companies participate, “such as highways or the like, and many times the maximum term is not even exhausted,” he warns.

The City Council defends that these are models of public-private collaboration, a liberal model, which “it is so difficult for the left to admit”, said this week the deputy mayor of Madrid, Begoña Villacís. “What the City Council proposes is a Madrid-style public-private collaboration. There are many ways of doing it in which not everything is handed over, something different from the very low or non-existent fees as in the case of this city, paying maintenance on top of it”, replies Ardura, who believes that the council is “getting on its knees before capital” instead of “acting as a public administration that raises a counterpart”.

“Long terms camouflage covert definitive privatizations,” adds the anthropologist José Mansilla, in a conversation with Somos Madrid. “What Madrid is experimenting with is a new way for private companies to get more out of the land, not with infrastructure but with public space,” he warns. Mansilla explains that the philosophy behind it is that of the Business Improvement District (BID) model that was born in Canada and has its most famous exponent in New York’s Times Square, with examples also in the United Kingdom. But that in Spain does not apply because there is no similar regulation. “The idea is being hammered into our legal framework,” adds Ardura.

“They teach chaos and anarchy so that later the private saviors appear and the citizen accepts it”

Joseph Mansilla

Mansilla believes that what Almeida’s team is trying to do is “remove responsibilities for the future so that a private entity is in charge of fine-tuning the city itself, not through a cleaning tender, but with a concession for the streets ” and considers that it is creating the breeding ground for the people of Madrid to share in the idea of ​​abandoning themselves to the hands of the first who comes with money to solve the problems: “Now they are beginning to talk about the poor state of the area, it is a classic mechanism, as a gentrification manual”, he assures while remembering the year 2005 in Barcelona, ​​when the media bombarded with news about the degradation of the city center, months before a Civic Ordinance was approved that curtailed freedoms. “They teach chaos and anarchy so that later private saviors appear and the citizen accepts it”

Against this simplistic message, Mansilla advocates explaining calmly and in depth what private management of a public space means, giving up parts of the city for the use and benefit of a few, and that it can end up fragmenting the places in which we live. “It’s something that doesn’t fit in a tweet,” he laments, adding that the explanations “have many layers and you have to remove them all like an onion.” He is not optimistic that the citizen is willing to stop, listen and reflect: “With the war and the crisis, people and society are not at this moment for niceties.”

Where is Madrid headed with these policies? What will be your future city model? Ardura believes that “the AZCA project confirms that the PP model is not to be Copenhagen or Paris or Berlin, but that of a post-Brexit London in the style of Boris Johnson, totally deregulated and sold to private capital.” To get an idea, the experience of living in the London capital today was recalled recently by Pedro Bravo in this same newspaper, in an article in which he analyzed Almeida’s attempts to resemble the City: “Things that are normal in the capital British for a long time: working as a clerk or as a waiter and having to share not just a flat, but a room. Living in a hovel a couple of hours by public transport from your work. Having several tasks and not reaching the end of the month. You almost never see your friends or family. To be alone, to be poor, to subsist”.