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Marbella old town is losing its residential nature as businesses take over, warn architects

News date: Wednesday, 21st of July, 2004

A study, carried out for the Town Hall, concludes that the happy medium between businesses and residences is in danger

Almost half of the buildings in the town centre are no longer lived in

Today the streets of the old town of Marbella are packed with offices and businesses. Now there are almost as many buildings converted into offices as there are private homes. These at least are the conclusions of a study carried out for the Town Hall as the first step towards a special plan to protect the area. The study explains that, apart from the renovated southern side of the old town, the buildings used solely for commercial, professional or institutional purposes amount to 40 per cent of the total. In other words, four out of every ten buildings are no longer lived in.

The study, directed by the architects José María Morente and Damián Quero, refers to a growing concentration of tertiary activities in this area. And the direct consequence of this trend, according to the experts, is “a severe alteration in habitability conditions”.

The study’s conclusions are clear. It warns of the danger of losing the balance between buildings with residential use and the rest. “The vitality and spirit of an old town centre and its potential for symbolism require this balance”, explains the document. If this happy medium is lost, the most obvious effect would be the “irreversible” deterioration of the area’s own values.

At the opposite end of the scale are the areas of Barrio, Barrio Alto and Las Peñuelas, which are almost exclusively residential. “This leads to an excessively monotonous urban pattern, with hardly any amenities or buildings with other uses to complement the homes themselves”, the report continues.

The experts also mentioned the fact that more and more first floors of old town buildings are being used as storerooms by the shops and restaurants that occupy the ground floor; in total around 2,250 square metres have this auxiliary use. The report’s conclusion is clear: “This situation, as well as adding to the growing number of properties being used for business purposes, is spoiling the appearance of the first floors of the buildings and is leading to a reduction of the population resident in the town centre.”

At present the population of the town centre and its surroundings amounts to 6,909 inhabitants. This only accounts for 5.54 per cent of the total number of people registered on the Marbella population census. Nevertheless the study points out that the area in question has experienced a “constant and steady” population growth since 1991.

Solutions to traffic and services

Even though the report is only a “diagnosis” of the situation, the architects José María Morente and Damián Quero have pointed out in which direction the future special plan to protect Marbella old town should go. They highlight the lack of accessibility in some parts of the old town and its surrounding areas, a result of the pedestrianisation process. To solve this they suggest converting Calle Peral into a road with restricted traffic access “which would allow vehicles to use the road under certain circumstances”. They also warn of the need to improve the drainage system as at present the rainwater drains and sewers all join together in one single pipeline. “This does not seem admissible these days”, they point out, stressing that both drainage networks should be separate.

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