Space at the entrance to the Palmeral in the port of Malaga where the new big wheel will be located. Salvador Salas
Malaga port invites plans for city's new big wheel attraction

Malaga port invites plans for city's new big wheel attraction

The port authority has pinpointed the space at the entrance off the Plaza de la Marina for a temporary attraction; two bids have already been submitted

Ignacio Lillo


Friday, 28 June 2024, 14:10

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The Port of Malaga is to call a public tender to choose a new big wheel attraction. The port authority will provide the space at the entrance off the Plaza de la Marina for a temporary attraction, once the interest of at least two bids has been formally confirmed. Although there may be more.

"We will launch a tender in the coming months due to the interest generated; following recent news, a lot of interested parties have appeared or contacted us," said Carlos Rubio, president of the port authority.

The port management has already secured initial approval from the town hall to occupy the area with an observation wheel, which faces no objections as long as it remains a temporary installation. However, the duration specified in the tender document, which will be drafted now, remains to be seen.

"In any case, it will be a temporary concession, not permanent," said the president. The minimum duration required to recoup the investment needed for installation by the developer will be one year, with typically an option for an additional one-year extension.

Although it has been brewing for months, interest in bringing back the big wheel that operated for several years in the most central area of Malaga's port has surged in recent weeks. As reported by SUR, initial interest from various business groups to lead this project was joined recently by a further step forward. The port authority has officially received through registration the applications of two companies interested in setting up such an observation wheel. Given the interest generated, it is possible that other offers may join soon or directly once the public tender is announced.

Recent news about this project has generated a lot of interest from developers

Among the promoters of the initial projects that have been submitted are the partners from the city's first big wheel, located at Muelle de Heredia, behind the bus station, which was removed due to traffic issues on an inner road. They are competing alongside new investors, both national and international.

The significant change compared to the one installed in 2015 concerns the location, situated at the entrance to Palmeral from Plaza de la Marina, next to Gutiérrez Puerto restaurant. The planned wheel will be approximately 40 metres in height.

The most direct impact will be the need to remove palm trees, which will have to be transplanted to other areas of the site. However, these trees generally tolerate relocation well. Otherwise, this location has no nearby residents who could be affected, unlike what happened with the wheel at Muelle de Heredia; any potential noise and visual impact would be mitigated by the forested area of the park. There could be some interaction with the current views from the Málaga Palacio hotel.

Phased implementation

Given the temporary nature of the installation, the idea is for the port as an institution to directly grant permits for the location, although the city hall will need to authorise the activity, as with any other business.

However, this would actually be the first step of a more ambitious plan, a long-term plan that will depend on the acceptance of the people of Malaga, visitors, and users of the viewpoint at the chosen location. The president of the port authority has openly showed an interest in having a viewpoint for the city in the public use area of the port (currently corresponding to docks 1 and 2, but soon to expand to 3 and San Andrés), potentially reaching a height of about 80 metres.

The structure would require at least a couple of years for its construction and would also need to be approved through a public tender. While this process is resolved, awarded, and manufacturing begins, the temporary attraction currently being promoted would remain in place. Once the new one is ready, the temporary one would be dismantled, and the new one installed. "This will happen, provided that the reception of the wheel by the general public is favourable."

The second wheel

This will be the second time a big wheel has been in the Malaga port area. The first was there for nearly four years (between 2015 and 2019) at the corner of Muelle de Heredia, behind the bus station. During this time, it became a visual icon of the city, included in all tourist information guides and a favourite spot for photography enthusiasts (especially at night when it was illuminated), with its images widely shared on social media.

Its arrival was controversial, initially rejected before the urban planning management corrected course shortly afterward. Its departure was also precipitated by one of its supports interfering with an inner road where heavy vehicles passed, and modifying this structure would have been very costly.

Its removal was also justified by plans for promoting office spaces along Muelle de Heredia, a project that five years later has still not started and has at least another two years ahead, continuing to block any initiatives in this area.

Since the pandemic in 2020, there have been attempts to revive this tourist attraction in the centre of Malaga, though it wasn't until recently that these efforts gained momentum due to the favourable reception from the port institution and the tourism boom that Malaga is currently experiencing.

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