ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE

Wanda Group still wants to refurbish Edificio España, says Madrid mayor

Confirmation comes after rumors that Chinese firm had pulled out of project

The Edificio España building in Madrid.
The Edificio España building in Madrid.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena has said that the Chinese-owned Wanda Group still wants to refurbish the capital’s landmark Edificio España building and that it will continue working with City Hall to come up with a viable solution to doing so without demolishing its protected façade and flanks, as the group had originally wanted.

The announcement, which came following a meeting between the leader of the leftist Ahora Madrid bloc and Wanda’s head in the capital, Michael Qiao, on Tuesday, contradicts recent reports initially published by Cinco Días newspaper saying that Wanda had on Sunday told Carmena that it was pulling out of the project.

Wanda is staying in Madrid. They are delighted to stay and we are delighted that they are staying Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena

The mayor denied that such a weekend meeting had ever taken place.

According to municipal sources, Wanda chiefs have communicated their intention to continue with the project and a “new round of negotiations” has been opened with City Hall technicians to solve the problems.

“Wanda is staying in Madrid,” Mayor Carmena said on Tuesday. “They are delighted to stay and we are delighted that they are staying.”

Wanda bought the 117-meter high, 28-story Edificio España on Madrid’s Plaza de España for €265 million from Santander bank in July 2014 and planned to turn into a shopping mall and luxury hotel.

The Local Historical Heritage Committee, which is controlled by the Madrid regional government and City Hall, had already said in March 2014 that the façade and the side wings of the 1957-built skyscraper could not be removed, but Wanda requested another look at the issue last summer, claiming that the refurbishment work would not be possible without rebuilding them brick-by-brick.

The committee upheld the need to maintain the façade and flanks and rumors began to circulate that Wanda would be pulling out of the project and was putting the building up for sale.

Municipal sources say a “new round of negotiations” has been opened with City Hall to solve the problems

City Hall, which has always said it was unaware of such rumors, agrees that the façade and sides must be maintained and said in January that it was working to “make the operation technically viable, guaranteeing compliance with the law and making it possible for the group to carry out the work it wants.”

“Wanda is surprised at the amount of rumors that have emerged with these crossed reports,” the city’s sustainable development chief, José Manuel Calvo, said at the time.

Last October during a lecture at the Harvard Business School, Wang Jianglin, the chairman of Wanda, said that “it was not the Spanish government that vetoed the proposal, it was a personal campaign against us by Madrid.

“This is a perfect example of freedom in the West – anyone can express their view and use signatures on a website to protest our rebuilding efforts,” Wang said in response to a question about the Madrid project.

“You are bound to encounter problems, whether it be through investment or through the development process,” he explained.

“What do you do when you encounter a problem? You be patient. Slowly, they state their reasons. You can give me suggestions, and I can hire a PR team or lawyers to rebut you, right? This matter is still ongoing, and we wait patiently for an outcome.”

English version by Nick Funnell.

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