Still wait­ing… 21 years later!

The on­go­ing saga of Benidorm's Casa de Cul­tura - an eye­sore on its main ac­cess

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - News Feature - Ibodnarec@cb­

By Irena Bodnarec BENIDORM’s Casa de Cul­tura is hope­fully not com­pa­ra­ble to Barcelona’s Sagrada Fa­milia – the stun­ning but un­fin­ished Gaudi-de­signed Basil­ica, which be­gan in 1882!

The 11,000-square-me­tre struc­ture, which can only be de­scribed as a con­crete mon­ster on Avenida Europa, is a blot on the land­scape but one that Lour­des Castelles, coun­cil­lor for town plan­ning in Benidorm, is con­fi­dent will be ad­dressed in the com­ing months.

The project for a cul­tural cen­tre, in­clud­ing a 1,200-seater au­di­to­rium plus sec­ond smaller one, mu­seum and park­ing for 400 cars, was pro­posed back in 1996 with an ini­tial bud­get of €12 mil­lion, how­ever by 2003 this had es­ca­lated to €48 mil­lion.

It was cho­sen from one of 93 sub­mis­sions pre­sented by Juan Navarro Baldeweb, al­though his es­ti­mate was al­ready two mil­lion eu­ros, or 1,600 mil­lion pe­se­tas as it was then, over the bud­get ear­marked for the project.

The land is owned by the coun­cil and was a foot­ball pitch un­til around 2002 – they bought it at a “very good price” on the pro­viso that it was used and en­joyed by the pub­lic and res­i­dents of the town.

The plan also in­cluded two mu­sic con­ser­va­to­ries – Benidorm is the only town where it is lo­cated in a bull­ring.

How­ever, with the fi­nan­cial cri­sis both the town hall and re­gional gov­ern­ment ran out of money to com­plete the project.

In July of this year a mo­tion was passed to can­cel the orig­i­nal plan and they are now wait­ing to sign off a re­vised one, which will see the com­ple­tion of one mu­sic con­ser­va­tory, the smaller of the two au­di­to­ri­ums, a cafe­te­ria and the cladding of the en­tire out­side – mi­nus the car park.

This will mean that to passersby – in­clud­ing the mil­lions of hol­i­day­mak­ers who visit every year, it will look fin­ished and, more im­por­tantly, pre­sentable.

The town hall have to re­place the metal fenc­ing every few months around the perime­ter to stop van­dals and squat­ters en­ter­ing – a costly mat­ter and paid for out of the town's al­ready stretched bud­get.

In or­der to help fi­nance this project, the re­gional gov­ern­ment are sell­ing off land around Terra Mítica which is ear­marked for 2,000 new houses.

Benidorm is one of the few towns with­out a cul­tural cen­tre, which con­sid­er­ing its size, num­ber of vis­i­tors and money it brings into the prov­ince, is some­what of an anom­aly.

Al­faz del Pi was the first and cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary last year, and neigh­bour­ing Al­tea, Vil­la­joyosa and La Nucía all have im­pres­sive build­ings which host nu­mer­ous con­certs and func­tions through­out the year.

In 2006 it was an­nounced that an out­side com­pany – So­ciedad Par­ques Temáti­cos would ini­tially be awarded a 15-year con­tract to run the cen­tre on its com­ple­tion, af­ter which it would be handed back to the town hall.

The coun­cil­lor en­vis­ages that works will com­mence be­fore the end of this year and the plan is to fin­ish Phase 1 by 2019.

Lour­des Castelles

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