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The pillars of Madrid Nuevo Norte

| News | Public and Regulatory Law

Antonio Ñudi analyses the project in an article published by El Independiente

In these difficult days, everything has been turned upside down. Everything stable seems to collapse and forces us to reinvent ourselves at a fast pace to make our new reality as similar as possible to the previous one. But the Covid-19 has changed everything, at least temporarily. In the field of work, we have carried out a real simulation of teleworking, without notice. In days, hours, most of the companies in this country have made a great effort to adapt their working models to this remote formula that only some companies were already using, although partially.

And in this context of absolute exceptionality, of paralysis of economic and social activity, Madrid Nuevo Norte was approved, one of the largest urban development operations in our country, which has been going around for almost 25 years. Paradoxical, at least. The project is the heir to what the 1997 Madrid General Plan called the "Prolongation of the Castellana", precisely because one of its objectives was to extend the Castellana to the M-40.

The development and execution was entrusted to an Urban Development Consortium in which the three Public Administrations involved (Ministry of Development, Community of Madrid and Madrid City Council) initially participated. Subsequently, Renfe (now Adif), as the majority owner of the land, and Duch (now DCN), a company in which BBVA and the San José construction company had a stake, which had been awarded the urban development rights of Renfe, by virtue of a tender called by the latter.

A new city model

The scope was to be developed through a Partial Plan for Internal Reform that was approved in 2011 and subject to challenge and subsequent annulment by the Courts. DCN, in charge of the management, with the objective of complying with the judicial resolutions, the new environmental regulations and the economic conditions, presented a new project that involved a complete reconsideration and alteration of the urban parameters, proposing a new model of city, for an area, with a surface of 3,114,336 square meters and a gross buildable area of 1.05 m²/m²: 3,270,052.80 constructible square meters, where residential use (1.7 million constructible square meters) took precedence over the tertiary office (1.4 million constructible square meters).

Despite its initial approval in 2015 by the City Council, the new municipal government team led by Manuela Carmena decided in 2016 not to continue with the processing of this project, which generated deep opposition from DCN, the Community of Madrid and the Ministry of Development, among others, resulting in eight legal proceedings before the Madrid High Court of Justice, which are currently on hold.

The City Council then initiated a participatory process with the main affected parties with the idea of totally reconsidering the project and the urban planning model for which it worked intensely with DCN on the Specific Modification of the General Plan called "Madrid Nuevo Norte", initially approved in September 2018.

The aim is no longer to extend the Castellana to the M-40 but to develop economic activities at the end of the Castellana axis and a new Chamartín Station, in the areas to the south of the M-30, and to develop land that is currently in a poor state of repair, linking the districts of Las Tablas and Fuencarral, and creating a land reserve for almost 10,500 homes, in the areas to the north of the M-30.

There is no doubt that this new project is the result of dialogue and consensus between the Madrid City Council, the Community of Madrid, the Ministry of Development (Adif and Renfe) and DCN, and has involved the participation of residents, social and economic agents and other administrations involved. This has been key to the process and is worthy of note for its uniqueness.

The project that today has had its final approval by the Community of Madrid is a very different previous project. And it is, from the point of view of its future management, since now four areas of urban development action are being created that are independent of each other instead of just one, although they will have to be coordinated and contribute to the implementation of common infrastructures.

The four areas, "Chamartín Station", made up of the railway station itself; "Chamartín Business Centre", mainly for office use; "Malmea-San Roque-Tres Olivos", mainly for residential use; and "Las Tablas Oeste", mixing both uses, will give rise to four different Compensation Boards. This will facilitate urban management and result in a more equitable distribution of urban burdens to be borne by landowners.

But it is also different because of its urbanistic parameters. The land area is reduced to just over 2.3 million square metres, by removing the land from a large part of the railway infrastructure, the train tracks, and the junction of the M-30. The total building area is now 2,657,313 square metres, in which the use of offices predominates, specifically 1,505,659 square metres, and 10,474 homes will be built on the remaining building land, 20% of which will be subject to price limitation.

The development will, in turn, allow the execution of important infrastructures of the Metro network and, of course, the total remodelling of the old Chamartin Station, as well as numerous green spaces and other public facilities.

The project's figures are extraordinary. The forecasts for the sale of the real estate product, 140,000 million euros or, for example, the creation of 250,000 direct and indirect jobs during the total execution of the project and tax revenues amounting to 3.8 million euros. The size of Madrid Nuevo Norte makes it a unique project and a great opportunity to give an economic boost to our country, which will be very welcome when we return to normality.

However, there are many unknowns about how the return to normality will be, and one of them is, without a doubt, whether this return to normality will change the traditional ways of working and with it the needs of the spaces that companies will demand in order to carry out their activity.

The teleworking we are doing today could be consolidated in the future if companies corroborate that the equipment works remotely, and productivity does not decrease. In addition, the time dedicated to the transfers from home to work is taken advantage of, reconciling better, the expense in transport is reduced and, mainly, we reach healthier levels of contamination in our cities.

It is true that companies will maintain physical headquarters that identify them and the teams need to share spaces to promote cohesion, at least from time to time. But I am convinced that they will consider whether they really need all the space they currently have.

The pillars of Madrid Nuevo Norte are the office spaces and it would not be unreasonable to think that they could be over-dimensioned if a context like the one I have pointed out were to arise.

The fact that a large part of the Specific Modification now approved has incorporated detailed planning, that is to say, it has perfectly defined the regime of uses and intensities, accelerates the management process, but also makes it more restrictive if it does not establish a sufficiently broad regime of compatible or alternative uses that gives greater flexibility to adapt the supply to the ever changing demand. And this has not been one of the objectives pursued.

You can read the full article in El Independiente.

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