Small squares and cars as "guests" in new plan for Eixample
Work on first four axes will begin in June and should be finished in eight months' time
The rush of works that the City Council is preparing before May 2023 elections is already starting to show its head with a succession of big announcements this week: the last one, this Thursday, when a date was set for the start of the works of the so-called Superilla Barcelona, which will create 21 pedestrian-first axes and 21 new squares across the Eixample from now until 2030. In June work will begin on the first four axes, around Consell de Cent street, as well as the four squares where the axes meet. The forecast is that work will be very fast and will not extend beyond the first quarter of next year (about eight months). The timetable says that the project, which is En Comú's flagship project, has to be ready before the elections.
The first intervention will transform central axis of Consell de Cent street and Girona, Rocafort and Borrell streets. Some works will have a budget of €52.7m (€48.2m for the axes and €4.5m for the squares) and will also gain 31 small squares of about 725 square metres at the intersections with the streets that are not pedestrian first, with the idea, according to the municipal government, to recover "the spirit of the Cerdà plan", which has been "perverted", and have more green and living spaces. One of the objectives of the new design is to ensure that everyone has a green space 200 meters from home and to reduce the 350,000 cars that cross the Eixample every day (more than along the ring roads), although the City Council has not detailed what reduction is expected.
In these first four streets "new street model" will be rolled out, where "the vehicle ceases to be the king of public space and becomes a guest", as deputy mayor of Urbanism Janet Sanz likes to repeat. They will no longer have asphalt, but rather a combination of panot (the typical tile of Barcelona's pavements) and granite, which will replace the asphalt of roadways. They will have a single traffic lane, with a speed limit of 10 km/h, designed mainly for residents and services and with no difference in height from the space occupied by the pavement: everything will be at the same level. Vehicles will be forced to turn at each intersection so that they cannot drive down the spaces where they are "guests" from end to end.
In these new streets is also planned much more green than there is now: from the current 1% to a minimum of 12%. And a soil that, without asphalt, allows rainwater to filter and collect it in the new areas with vegetation. In fact, the innovations made by the project in the subsoil have made it possible to increase the budget of the work with the injection of European funds - the first budget announced was about 15 million lower
The green will have more prominence in two of the first four squares: those of the intersection with Roquefort and Enric Granados, which are conceived more as gardens. The second, in connection with the Jardins del Seminari, which will be closed. The squares of Borrell and Girona will be harder. What will appear after these first months of work will be 438 new trees in the whole area, and it is also planned to multiply the number of benches, children's games and fountains.
The presentation of the project was made by Mayor Ada Colau in the Saló de Cent, accompanied by the teams of architects who have created the projects and the deputy mayor of Urbanism, Janet Sanz. However, no representative of En Comú's coalition partner PSC was present. Nor was the councillor for Mobility, Laia Bonet. Colau has claimed that the model now being implemented is not "improvised"; rather, it replicates the model that already works in the neighbourhood of Sant Antoni. And Sanz has remarked that the project starts in the Eixample as a matter of "urgency", taking into account the levels of pollution, concentration of neighbours and green deficit. And she has refuted the arguments of employer association Foment, which a few days ago warned of a possible loss of 20% of turnover for stores located in these areas. The council argues that the trial in Sant Antoni has been positive for the area. The mayor, in fact, has invited both Foment and the Automobile Club RACC, also very critical, to join the "Barcelona of the future" and has assured that the planned transformation will not stop in any case.
The municipal government is confident that the suspension of new business licenses in these areas will prevent them from being taken over by bars and restaurants or there being a hike in house prices, in order to avoid the problems in streets such as Enric Granados. What begins around Consell de Cent is, according to Sanz, "the change" in singular, which begins in the Eixample but will be replicated in areas such as 22@ or Via Laietana, which are the two other major projects that the City Council has presented this week. Today's announcement coincides with the European Commission giving Barcelona and Madrid a slap on the wrist for not reducing emissions.