Neighbours concerned over construction of new estate in Bon Pastor

Project to build 1,450 new homes on site of old Mercedes factory under fire

3 min
The grounds of the former Mercedes with the Maquinista park in the background

BarcelonaA little more than a year ago, Barcelona City Council presented an agreement sealed with the owners of the plot where the old Mercedes-Benz factory used to be in Bon Pastor, Conren Tramway, to convert this space –in disuse since 2007– into a new estate with up to 1,450 homes (3,500 residents), universities (some 2,000 students and 500 professors) and economic activity to attract over 4,000 workers. This is what the promoters of the project claim will be the city's first eco-district, because they want plenty of green spaces and no traffic, becoming an urban link between Sant Andreu de Palomar and Bon Pastor. But once the project's specifics have become known and, above all, the developer has revealed its first simulations, neighbourhood tensions have arisen over to overcrowding concerns. The City Council insists, in the face of criticism, that nothing is definitive yet.

On Passeig de l'Havana, neighbours have put up banners protesting against the development. These neighbours, who have formed the Maquinista-Mercedes Association, are located between sandwiched between this mini-neighbourhood and the 812 new apartments planned as part of La Maquinista shopping centre expansion (in towers of up to 17 floors, which are, nevertheless, lower than the 24 floors initially planned).

They regret that ever since their homes were built two decades ago, the area has not been provided with facilities beyond a school, and they also ask for a mobility plan to ensure the area can absorb all the new activity.

Building on the park?

What made these neighbours even more indignant was the proposal that arose during consultation to try to reduce the buildable area within Mercedes by moving a block of apartments to the area where La Maquinista park is now located. "And what else? Destroy the park?" they criticise. Deputy mayor for Urbanism Janet Sanz assures this line will not be crossed: "My political commitment is that La Maquinista park will not be touched." It was explored as an option so the buildings would not be as concentrated in one area.

Simulation of what the old Mercedes factory area will look like according to Conren Tramway's project.

The City Council insists, however, that renderings released by Conren Tramway, based on Batlle i Roig's project, will not have the final word; it will all depend on the modification of the general metropolitan plan (MPGM) which will set required levels of green areas and facilities. The first step will be to analyse the results of an economic study of the area in order to confirm the planned spaces for each use. "The transformation is not closed," the district councilor, Lucia Martin, insisted at the last session of the Sant Andreu plenary.

40% subsidised housing

The Mercedes project affects a plot of 90,641 square metres and foresees, according to the agreement signed between the Council and developers, a total buildable area of 200,667 square metres: 116,667 for housing (40% at subsidised prices) and 84,000 for economic activity. The initiative has also generated tensions between the residents of the older and more working class area of Bon Pastor, who are more in favour of the transformation, but criticise the lack of greenery and open spaces in the plans they have seen, and residents of La Maquinista area, who are the most opposed to the planned buildings next to their homes. The two areas, despite being part of the same neighbourhood, are very different, both in terms of the years in which they were built and average income level of its inhabitants, as can be seen in the City Council's disposable household income map.

Traffic-free streets within the new development

Opposition parties such as ERC are very critical of the agreement signed by the City Council and Conren Tramway – with whom the transformation of the Tres Xemeneies on Paral·lel is also being negotiated – and ask the City Council to hand over economic study. "We don't see the numbers clearly," they claim, with the feeling that "everything has been sold too cheaply." Valents also insisted at the last district plenary session on the need for transparency and to explain well who benefits and how with the transformation.

Green square

The project plans to create a kind of green square in its centre, maintain the metal structure (changing the roof for solar panels) of the old factory's central aisle and attract Elisava's new Faculty of Design and Engineering and the University of Vic. A centre of the Leitat Foundation and the implementation of new technology companies linked to creative industries and 4.0 are also expected to move to the area. This is one of the zones the City Council considers key to revitalise the industrial estates of the Besòs region, convinced the arrival of universities and technology centres will contribute to relaunch the entire Besòs area