Society 18/06/2021

A scare in Barcelona's Carmel neighbourhood gives boost to demolitions approved in 2010

The risk of collapse forced the eviction of a block on Passatge de Sigüenza in 2020 and now there are 22 buildings threatened with expropriation

2 min
Today's image of Pasaje Sigüenza in the Carmel neighbourhood

BarcelonaThis story begins on the 29th August last year, when the risk of collapse forced the emergency evacuation of the building at number 95 of the narrow Passatge de Sigüenza, in the Carmel district of Barcelona. The second chapter would come two months later, when the studies of the properties in the area concluded that the blocks adjacent to the affected one were also a threat to the safety of the neighbours and it was decided that these plots also needed to be expropriated and demolished because of the risk of imminent ruin. The neighbours were relocated. But now the City Council has announced a 180-degree turn in the way in which to approach the future of the area: the detailed report of the planned demolition has warned that doing so would be a threat to other blocks and that, therefore, it must to be discarded in the short term. What is being done now is looking at the whole street, where there are 22 buildings, and bring back an urban plan from 2010 that planned to convert the bulk of the blocks into new social housing to rehouse residents affected by urban plans and also to free up spaces without buildings.

Now this project, which had no start date or budget, has been given a priority label and all the residents of the passage could be expropriated. The municipal government, for the moment, prefers not to give a specific number of those affected and ensures that it will have to analyse case by case but it could be that the 22 properties were in the same situation: that the emergency eviction of a block with 18 neighbours ended up leading to the debris chain of the different properties in the passage.

"I do not want to send a message of concern, but a message of security", said the councillor for Horta-Guinardó, Rosa Alarcón, when explaining that the three scheduled debris have been stopped. She understands that "the crisis" last summer has now become "an opportunity" to carry out a modification of the General Metropolitan Plan that has been approved for eleven years and that until now had not been discussed. The council plans to start acquiring blocks already next year but warns that the total project will go beyond this mandate. It will be advanced in accordance with the available budget. For those affected, it has reserved a plot of land on Lisboa Street, where the rehousing flats have to be erected.

What will start next week is works on the three blocks that were to be demolished imminently: they will be uncovered - they were closed off after repeated problems with squatting and looting -, neighbours who have not done so will be allowed enter to collect belongings -the ones that remain- and they will be walled up and propped up again to ensure that the space is safe both for the people in the blocks next to it and for those who walk through the alley, now only 1.5m wide. "There is nothing wrong with taking things back," admitted the councillor in reference to the initial plan, and pointed out that the change is being made to put the "safety" of the residents first. She understands that the problem that now has to be addressed does not have to do with the huge sinkhole that appeared in Carmel in 2005, but rather with what could be considered both events causes: the way in which the neighbourhood was built.