The Entorno del Río Manzanares, and regarded in particular

The Madrid Río Project devised the
transformation of one of the most degraded and neglected zones of the city into
one of the most beautiful and vital. Moreover, this project planned to convert
the Manzanares River from an urban barrier into a meeting place for citizens,
serving as a connection between neighbourhood
and facilities (Sharif, 2012). To pursue these objectives, the M-30 – which is
the main ring road surrounding the city – was relocated underground, providing
the space for the linear Madrid Rio Park. An underground parking suitable for
1,000 vehicles was also created to enhance public transport and curb pollution
and congestion.

The Manzanares River benefited from these urban
changes and residents can currently enjoy the recreational zone along the river
banks (West 8, 2011; Jewell, 2011). This area has thus been the spotlight of
important renovation plans, which starts in 2003, with the Publication of the
Plan de Rehabilitaión del Entorno del Río Manzanares, and regarded in
particular the construction of the M-30 tunnel and the Madrid Río project. The
Plan de Rehabilitación del Entorno del Río Manzanares, published in 2015, is
the last restoration initiative, which is going to be implemented in the near
future. Thanks to the projects devised over the last 12 years, the Manzanares
River has become the pivot of requalification strategies which involver
building renovation and economis and social activities (Arquitectos Urbanistas
Ingenieros Asociado S.L.P., 2010).

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Since its construction in the 1970s, the M-30,
has caused the disappearance of the link between the city and its River, which
has become isolated, inaccessible and invisible (Burgos & Garrido
Arquitectos et al., 2011). To reduce the negative impact of highway on the
Manzanares River and on the surrounding neighbourhood, the Madrid 2003-2007
legislature under President Esperanza Aguirre (President of the Autonomous
Community of Madrid, PP) released its most

…Completion) and it was defined by El País
(País, 2008b) as the iniciativa Estrella (star initiative) supported by Mayor
Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. According to the Spanish newspaper (País, 2008a),
moreover, the renovation process suffered from the economic crisis which slowed
its pace. The project indeed started when the country registered a period of
notable economis growth and important economic investments in several fields.

Nevertheless, in 2009, the ambitious
transformation of the area on top of the new M-30 motorway, along the Manzanares
River proceeded and, by the end of the year, the riverbanks were renovated.
Decisive steps forward were also underway to conclude one of the most important
components of the Madrid Río Project, the Salón de Pinos, a greenway with bike
and pedestrian paths shaded by pines, located on the right bank of the river
(Área de Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda, 2009). In additition, the efforts to
complete other sections of the project were also unabated as the continuous
pedestrian and bike path which crosses Madrid along the Manzanares River (Área
de Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda, 2009). The Plan de Rehabilitación del
Entorno del Río Manzanares was released in 2010 and regards the strategies for
the urban requalification of the area left from the two projects Madrid Calle
30 and Madrid Río that still need to be renovated. This Plan addresses private
buildings as well as infrastructure for social and economic activities
(Arquitectos Urbanistas Ingenieros Asociados S.L.P.,2010).

The Madrid Río Project was completed during the
2007-2011 legislature and ended exactly on April 15 2011. It covered a total
surface area of 1,210,881 m2, with 33,623 new trees planted featuring 47
different species, 470,844 shrubs comprising 38 species and 210,898 m2 of lawn
(Ayuntamiento de Madrid, 2015).

The whole project, which includes the
Arganzuela, Matadero, and Puente de Toledo Parks (see Chapter 9.3) was finished
a month before the elections. It was completed on time, since the general
timeline of the project shows that the planning for the Madrid Río park was
scheduled to take place between 2007 and 2008, while the entire project
execution had to run from 2008 until 2010 (Sharif, 2012).

It is interesting to notice that, although
formally the legislature changed in 2007, the President of the Autonomous
Community of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre of the People’s Party was elected for the
second time. When the Madrid Río project was implement, Mayor Alberto
Ruiz-Gallardón was also elected for the second time. The mayor and the
president were hence from the same party. This is why the urban administration
saw a certain continuity. In 2015, Manuela Carmela of the PSOE (the Spanish Socialist
Workers’ Party) was elected mayor but the project was and (still is)
supported transversally by both main Spanish parties, as demonstrated by the
objectives of the current administrations. The Mayor of Madrid and Mayor of
Getafe (south of Madrid) have declared they are going to proceed with the
restoration of the area near the Manzanares River that still needs to be
upgrades, building a new section of the park stretching from Madrid Río to the
Getafe municipality (EcoDiario, 2015a). So far, the urban requalification of
this remaining area, which was initially comprised in the Madrid Calle 30 and
Madrid Río projects, has been addressed in January 2010 with the Plan de
Rehabilitación del Entorno del Río Manzanares. This project supports
initiatives such as the renovation of private building and boosts local social
and economic activities (Arquitectos Urbanistas Ingenieros Asociados S.L.P.,
2010).

2. PROJECT COSTS AND BENEFITS

The Madrid Río and the Calle 30 projects have
concerned a massive infrastructure redesign. The first plase, which required
submerging the Madrid traffic through 43 km of new underground tunnels, was the
most difficult. This was part of a structured technological effort than often
infuriated residents despite promises of improved quality of life and higher
property values (Jewell, 2011).

The cost of the project was 3.9 billion € for
the Calle 30 project – the tunnel work – and €485 million for the Madrid Río
Project, an enormous recreational space opened up in the heart of Madrid
(Sharif, 2012). The project was mostly funded by the Spanish government via
Plan E, the stimulus package pushed through by Spain’s Socialist Prime
Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (The Economist, 2009). The high costs
were due to the bulk of works implemented. In fact, in addition to restoring
historic monumets along the river, two new bridges were built. The Arganzuela
Footbridge, designed by Dominique Perrault (with a cost of approximately €13
million), was covered by interlocking curved metallic strips. This spiraling
silver bridge is a large walkway that provides an expansive view over the river
and park areas below (Jewell, 2011).

The Madrid Río project demonstrates that the
Spanish government was able to invest in renovation projects targeted on public
spaces (Mele, 2014). Therefore, whilw at local level, the Project was conceived
and managed by the People’s Party, at national level, it was funded by the
Spanish Socialist Workers’ government. This is a further demonstration of the
wide political approval granted to the restoration project.

Despite the many and important environmental,
economic, and social improvements deriving from the Madrid Río Project (see
Chapter 9.3), criticisms arose over the high costs and some implementation
aspects. For example, recently (Lòpez Garro, 2015), some citizens have argued
that the greenway is too small (for bikes, skated, pedestrians, etc). Another
concern regards the substrate thickness needed to plant trees on top of the
tunnel (which is not adequate for big trees) and the magnitude pf paved
surfaces. The most successful outcome, although, is that thousands of people
use the park on the Manzanares River, especially at weekends (Sánchez, 2013).
In the first steps, the project was hindered by the lack of comprehensive and
reliable communication between the Administration and the citizens. The
residents’ participation was low, as the Foro por la Movilidad Sostenible
(Forum for Sustainable Mobility Platform denounced, punishing the Madrid
Municipality to increase information sctivities starting from 2009 (Área de
Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda 2009). Thanks to these efforts, the citizens
are now fully supporting the project and giving in the recognition it deserves.
The Manzanares River, in fact, has been a major landmark for Madrid’s urban
development due to its central role in the profound transformation related to
the M-30 and its environment. The Madrid River Project has created a new
framework for urban renovation, encompassing the urban highway burial and the
development of public open spaces. This transformation has played a hey role in
favouring an overall improvement of the urban scene and has increased private
real estate value (Área de Gobierno de Urbanismo y Vivienda, 2009).

In 2015, the Harvard Graduate School of Design
awarded the Madrid Río Development Plan with the 12th Veronica Rudge
Green Prize in Urban Design defining it the best city space on a world scale. This
prize followed the Premio de Diseño Urbano y Paisajimso Internacional, assigned
in 2011 by the Comité Internacional de Críticos de Arquitectura (CICA,
international panel of critics of architecture; El País, 2011). The Madrid Río
linear park is, first of all, a great success for the city and has created a
friendly and inclusive urban environment, connecting the city neighborhoods and
providing green areas. It has certainly improved the citizens’ quality of life,
as stated by the Harvard Graduate School committee (EcoDiario, 2015b).