Artist's impression of Estepona's new 'grand boulevard'. :: SUR
After three years that have seen little investment and a definite absence of major works, it is noticeable that Town Halls in Malaga province are setting to work again now, releasing millions of euros to bring their star projects to fruition.
Behind this sudden urge to invest in major projects lies a date: May 2015. Council elections. Just like a drought, the interest in municipal projects is cyclical, although these cycles last for exactly four years. Now, ten months before the next local elections, the time seems to have come for roads to be resurfaced, streets to be improved and green zones to be created; in other words, the projects with the greatest impact on local residents.
There are numerous plans for landmark projects with which the mayors, either alone or in cooperation with other administrations, wish to make their mark. Coincidentally, or not, they want these to be finished before the spring or, at least, for them to be well under way. They go from the Pompidou and Russian museums and the Benítez park in Malaga city to the boulevard in San Pedro Alcántara, not forgetting the second phase of the river park in Fuengirola, the improvements to the old part of Mijas, the creation of a botanical garden and a major shopping centre in Estepona, the ‘periurbano’ park in Rincón de la Victoria, the Cerro de los Remedios gardens in Vélez and the improvements to the access road to Coín.
Although some may feel they are being used by politicians, people tend to approve. After all, these are improvements to the places where they live, and the projects create jobs. “Whenever the elections are getting close, they start doing everything they should have done already. Obviously, these are electoral measures, but it is still good news that improvement projects which help to revive the economy are being carried out,” says Francisco Cantos, president of the Solidaridad federation of residents’ associations.
Reviving the economy
Construction companies cannot disguise their satisfaction at the sudden investment that has taken place during the past six months and they hope it intensifies still further in the second half of the year.
“We are delighted, independently of whether it is because politicians want their work to be noted before the start of the electoral campaign. We wish there could be elections every year!” stresses the general se cretary of the Association of Constructors and Developers, Violeta Aragón. This is hardly surprising. Figures show that so far this year the administrations have put projects to tender in Malaga province totalling 129.3 million euros.
One of the biggest, at 4.2 million euros, is the one by Malaga council to convert the “Cube” in the port into the only branch of the Pompidou Centre outside France, and to do so before next spring. Around the same time, it plans to open a branch of the Russian State Museum of Saint Petersburg in the old Tabacalera building, which is the other star project for the mayor, Francisco de la Torre, in his pursuit of re-election.
Elsewhere in the province, Vélez-Málaga council is planning the most surprising works of all, spending another 14 million euros on top of the 8.5 million for projects that are already under way such as the 2.7 million euro botanical garden at the Cerro de los Remedios. The plans include a business centre, the modernisation of the old municipal market, the completion of the junction with the A-7 at Caleta de Vélez, the museum in the San Juan de Dios hospital, the restoration of the Lope de Vega theatre and the conversion of the old bus station into a market.
Also in La Axarquía, both Torrox and Nerja are planning improvements to central streets, while in Rincón de la Victoria there are plans for a large park in Torre de Benagalbón.
On the western Costa del Sol, the biggest project planned for after the summer is in Estepona. The council hopes the so-called Grand Boulevard will transform the town centre, thanks to a privately funded project to create a shopping, tourism and recreational centre. It will cost about 30 million euros. The council will be financing a 2.3 million-euro botanical park with the biggest orchid collection in Europe.
Special emphasis is being placed everywhere on projects which create employment, such as the 400 temporary jobs that will be created in Benalmádena on a 3.5 million euro road improvements plan. Together with the provincial government, the council is also spending one million euros on turning a room at the Casa de Cultura in Arroyo de la Miel into a theatre with seating for 415 people. This is a controversial project, because 4,000 people have signed a petition to demand that the money be used for more urgent needs.
The provincial government is also collaborating on two of the most important projects in Torremolinos: the restoration of the Casa de los Navajas in El Bajondillo and the extension of the Villa Deportiva.
In Mijas, the biggest project involves improvements to streets of the old village centre and around the Plaza Virgen de la Peña, costing 4.8 million euros and jointly funded by the Plan Qualifica. A further 1.4 million is to be spent on road improvements and eight million on drainage pipes in the oldest districts.
In neighbouring Fuengirola, work has just begun on the second phase of the Parque Fluvial, costing 1.18 million euros .
The entrance to Coín is to be converted into a boulevard, the Plaza de la Legión in Alhaurín el Grande is to be improved and the Santo Cristo park in Cártama is to be enlarged.