Friday, May 30, 2014

Cuando el fallo no es una opción

You're in Madrid, living in the past and stuck with ugly old storefronts;
Blas de la Fuente bought the premises in 1999; the façade was as it is at present, while the interior was empty. Since then he has applied for planning permission five times (each application costing €5,000) to refurbish the premises, protecting whatever needs to be protected, and that each time, his application has been denied. “The problem is that they don’t know what was originally here: there are some references to a counter, some beams, but they don’t know,” he says. City Hall says that no license has been granted and that work undertaken to the premises has been noted as not complying with municipal ordinances. De la Fuente says he has even considered giving the property away.
Capitalism is a profit and loss system, and the failures are as important as the successes. When you can't venture, lose, and move on, you get what Madrid has; 1997, Madrid City Hall published a catalogue of around 1,500 historic store fronts and signage in the capital with the aim of protecting this unique aspect of the city’s commercial heritage. Even at the time, some had already gone, such as the former grocery store on the corner of Monteleón street in the Malasaña neighborhood; others supposedly protected by municipal legislation have since disappeared through accident or design.
A check of around 50 of the protected shop fronts reveals that almost half have been damaged, removed, or modified in some way. Some have been changed with the approval of City Hall, but still remain in its catalogue... some have been vandalized or fallen into disrepair following the closure of the premises, lost for ever. But above all, the problem seems to be that work has been carried out, or store fronts and signage have been removed, without the permission of the relevant authority, which is City Hall’s Agency for the Management and Opening of Economic Activities (AGLA).
At least that is what City Hall says. Furthermore, any changes to a listed building requires the permission of the capital’s two heritage commissions, which include a member of the capital’s College of Architects. 
Which might explain why Spain is not recovering from the recession of 2008, after all these years. To get anywhere you have to break the law.

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