During the past decades, it has been a trend to transform buildings in the old city centre of Barcelona into hotels or residential complexes. As many as 720.000 square meters of business space have been repurposed in the past 18 years, consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield states in a report.
The Barcelona Global association believes that this phenomenon has encouraged gentrification and one-sidedness of economic activity (tourism) and believes that Barcelona should restore businesses within the historic part of the city.
In a report, Barcelona Global identified 18 known buildings that are either not begin used or that are not being used for correct purposes and that could be used as office space. The buildings are both public and private property and together have a surface area of 243.300 square meters. Some examples are the Banco de España, Estación de Francia, the Post Office, the old court on Via Laietana and Cine Rex and the building of Nuñez I Navarro on the same street.
‘Great opportunity’ for city centre
According to Barcelona Global chairman Pau Guardans, this is a ‘great opportunity’ for the city centre to profile itself as an attractive zone for companies that want to establish themselves in the city and furthermore also for companies that are looking for innovation and talent. His colleague Mateu Hernández indicates that the establishment of companies in these buildings also would benefit the surrounding shops and restaurants.
Oriol Barrachina from Cushman & Wakefield adds that this proposal would benefit the supply of commercial space in Barcelona at a time when commercial space is scarce, and demand continues to grow. Currently, companies looking to settle in the city are choosing the new business districts because they cannot find suitable properties in the city centre.
Companies are looking for employee satisfaction
The report shows that companies across Europe are committed to better projects in the city centre, partly because location in the centre benefits new working models such as flexible working and a better work-life balance. And one of the main goals is to maximize employee satisfaction, in order to attract and retain new talent.
The report aims to follow cities such as Paris and London where old buildings in the city centre are being transformed into business and / or start-up spaces. According to the chairman of Barcelona Global, the municipality has received the proposal well. However, in the opinion of the organization, it is of great importance that the municipality ensures that the bureaucratic procedures in order to use these buildings as commercial space, accelerate. Currently, these procedures take from nine months up to a year.
Guardans also states that previous similar initiatives in Ciutat Vella have been successful and that the loss of offices in the area implies severe risks for the restoration of the district that started in the 1980s due to poverty, crime and drug problems.
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