Barrio de Salamanca (7) Future

Main uses by lot: economic activity (blue) and housing (orange)

Main uses by lot: economic activity (blue) and housing (orange)

The draft revision of the 1997 Madrid General Plan (PGOUM) has been published few days ago. The new document should address an uncomfortable situation, helping to weather the economic storm and to steer a municipality of more than 3 million residents on 600 sq km towards a more sustainable future by all standards. I will not talk here about the territorial model issues, or the (unusual) idea of starting a debate with a map with a detail corresponding to the building lots, just about the Barrio de Salamanca.

Barrio de Salamanca is here just an element, central and relevant for its dynamics, but not the main character. In fact, its “poor brother”, the Arganzuela area, also included in the 1860 Plan, takes a more visible stage role as there are plans to foster the urban regeneration that began in the 1980s by replacing industrial areas with housing and other uses; it should become a southern centrality node.

But there are some questions that are highlighted in this draft plan:

–           According to the central position of the area, many of the main streets are inscribed in a strategy to recuperate the main boulevards, increasing the green space into the city. Some important changes in the allocation of space to pedestrians and cars at streets as Principe de Vergara are shown in renders, as well as the possibility to create a pedestrian park in the Plaza del Marques de Salamanca.

Images from the Draft Plan

Images from the Draft Plan

–           There is a clear aim to make more flexible the location of activities (retail and others) in ground floor, as to improve street vitality

–           Barrio de Salamanca is one of the areas in the city that have less area for public facilities; this is far from new, as it is a heritage from the replacement of the original Castro’s Plan, that would have allowed to get more space for such uses.

Overall, a neighbourhood that was born to improve and expand in a rational way a city has become just one more part of it, with a strong economic clout, but also with persistent deficits resulting from the demise of the initial planning proposals. This is a bit less hard here considering per capita income, but not everyone residing there are rich people…

Let me rephrase the question. Could Barrio de Salamanca have gained such a central role with the initially allocated densities? It is far from clear, and this question to ask in contemporary low-density urban extensions. You cannot have an urban tissue in which every part is central, but now that “sprawl repair” and other such ideas are gaining traction (thank god, in general terms), the balance between public facilities/ public realm and density should be addressed carefully, as densification is always a complex issue.

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