Despite the heavy rain, the long-awaited reconstruction of the Mercado Central area begins today, despite the fact that much digging was done last week. And, as soon as workers started digging, archaeological discoveries were unearthed, meaning there may be delays…
Although officially announced for today, the long-awaited reconstruction of the Mercado Central area, squares, and streets surrounding this iconic part of Valencia began last week. Pavasal, the company in charge, won the tender not only because its price was much lower than its competitors’, but also because it promised much shorter deadlines – the entire process should have been completed within a year. However, as soon as the workers began digging, they found themselves on a history tour, discovering many buried objects and archaeological finds.
The work began with the opening of the ditch on Maria Cristina Street in order to lay new water pipes. The tracks of an old tram line that ran through the city centre were the first thing discovered, as expected. However, beneath the surface, there were remnants of an old road, most likely dating from the 17th century, as well as a building facade, which probably dates from much earlier.
The matter has been referred to archaeologists, and the works will be halted until their findings are received. One of the City Councillors attempted to reassure the public that the proposed deadline will not be affected, and that there is still plenty of time for the reconstruction to be completed on time.
However, given the speed with which archaeologists work and the potential red tape involved in resolving this issue, his optimism may turn out to be misplaced. Maria Cristina street has far less historical significance than Placa de Bruges or Placa Mercado, and we can only speculate about what lurks beneath the stone pavement. These projects are scheduled to begin in early May. Much will depend upon how far the workers will have to dig in this area, but the plan appears to be to lift the asphalt and reveal the old cobblestone paving that is now hidden beneath it. However, new water pipes will have to be installed here as well, which may cause the same issue.
The shop owners in the area will be the most enraged. The works were supposed to be completed by May 2022, according to the initial proposal, but it now appears that this deadline will have to be postponed. During the works, shops will be inaccessible, either permanently or temporarily, and this will have a significant impact on trade, already very low due to the pandemic. The area around the Mercado Central is one of the focal points of Valencia’s tourism, and the lack of visitors last year and so far this year, has already caused many businesses to close. And with work on Plaza de la Reina Square and the reconstruction of two of the area’s largest parking lots set to begin soon, things are certain to become even more complicated.
In order to compensate, the Valencia City Council will grant affected businesses 80 percent of the IAE tax, and rates for restaurant outdoor areas will be reduced. However, although welcomed, this is far from what is truly required, say critics
The good news is that businesses that survive the reconstruction work will most likely be rewarded. This area will see a significant increase in traffic from both tourists and Valencians once it is completed, entirely pedestrianised, and beautified. This will undoubtedly increase business activity and improve the profitability of many businesses. If they are still alive to witness it, that is.