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Town hall officials are spending 50,000 euros to see if Marbella town centre could be turned into a pedestrianized zone
26.10.12 - 12:39 -
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Paving the way for a car free
The pedestrian only area could start on the junction pictured here on Ramon y Cajal. A.B.
It's an ambitious scheme that could see a huge part of Marbella town centre closed off to traffic.
In a bid to create a vibrant commercial hub similar to Malaga's Calle Larios, council chiefs are planning to pedestrianize 600 metres of its busiest streets.
The move is aimed at breathing new life into Marbella centre which has been hit hard by the recession and competition from La Cañada shopping centre.
Now the green light has been given for a 50,000-euro feasibility study which will be put out to public tender next month. The results of the extensive study will then be presented in February.
The project would see a 25ft wide walkway along sections of Ricardo Soriano and Ramon y Cajal between Calle del Calvario and Felix Rodríguez de la Fuente.
It's understood that the work could also include the streets Avenida Puerta del Mar, San Juan Bosco and Sierra Blanca.
In total around 20,000 square metres of road is being considered with experts set to study how to redirect traffic around the town centre.
But will these plans breathe fresh life into Marbella centre or could it be another repeat of the San Pedro tunnel fiasco?
Sceptical
One sceptical ex pat bar owner is John Hawkins who runs Jimmy's Bar on the edge of the historic old town.
John, 72, told SUR in English that the issue has been debated by many of his regulars over the last couple of weeks.
“The general reaction from our customers so far is that there's no way it should go ahead,” said John.
“It would cause so much disruption and people think it would be just like the San Pedro tunnel and have a negative effect on local businesses while it is being pedestrianized.
“But apart from the disruption I don't think it would bring more people to the centre. That's the view of people that have been coming in here anyway.”
Another local café owner who does not think the project is a good idea is Clive Chapman who runs The Corner Bar by Alameda Park in the centre of Marbella.
Clive, 58, originally from Sheffield, who has had the business for seven years, said: “I can't see the point in it really. There's not much up the other end of town so I can't see it working. They could spend the money much more wisely on a market in the port. The paseo is the centre of town and that's what brings people in. That's where the money should be spent.”
However, Nina King, who owns Oasis Dental Clinic on Ricardo Soriano, welcomed the news.
“I have had many client complaints about the difficulty encountered when driving into the congested town centre and trying to find appropriate parking,” said Nina.
“This is despite me providing free car parking tickets at a local underground site nearby. The situation has improved in the last year with the advent of metered parking on the street however the heavy traffic and complicated one way system on the streets behind Ricardo Soriano still deters many people from driving into Marbella centre.
“I believe the conversion would greatly benefit local businesses who perhaps may be losing clients as a result of the traffic and parking issues which currently exist.”
Alfonso Rivera Revilla, of Accounting Network SL, agreed.
“It would be fantastic if Ricardo Soriano was converted into a pedestrian street. It would be great for the quality of life of people living downtown and for the businesses, since it will reduce air and noise pollution.
“It will also draw many more shoppers to the new car-liberated, pedestrian friendly area. This is the tendency in cities all across the EU, to reclaim public spaces for the enjoyment of its inhabitants. Certainly in Madrid a big part of the downtown area has been made pedestrian and its inhabitants are delighted.”
Another ex pat who is unsure a pedestrian only centre is the right way forward is Caroline Bowley.
Ghost town
Caroline, who is the President of Women in Business Spain and runs Marbella Art Festival in the centre each summer, added: “The project is extremely adventurous, considering that Marbella right now is a bit of a ghost town with so many empty shops.
“At this stage I would say that there needs to be some clarification on how they envisage this is going to help traders in the centre when so many are struggling to get customers in the door. Maybe the money could be better spent on promotion, economic car parking or free parking which would be a real bonus for those visiting. The greatest competition is La Cañada, which is taking trade away from Marbella as you can park for free.”

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