VALENCIA – The historic centre of Valencia is deteriorating. Local residents, shopkeepers, and catering entrepreneurs are demanding action from the city council. Almost 200 properties had to close their doors permanently last year.
More precisely, 186 commercial establishments of any type closed in Ciutat Vella last year. In two years, 57% of the total shops, restaurants, hotels, and other properties were lost in the region’s capital. This data comes from the local Popular Party and clearly reflects the dire situation of the centre.
Work on the city centre squares, some of which is taking much longer than expected; accessibility issues, non-functioning security cameras, fewer police forces, the pandemic and the resulting reduction in tourism have brought the neighbourhood to a crossroads from which there seems to be no clear exit.
Residents, shopkeepers, and hoteliers analyse the condition of their neighbourhood and all agree. It is the last chance to save the historic centre of Valencia that is unique in Europe. “We are going to die,” they say in the regional newspaper Las Provincias.
“The neighbourhood is going down.” Furthermore, Toni Casola is the president of the Association of Veins de Amics del Carme and calls the situation “explosive”. “The street is a scandal at night: shouting, racing, drinking alcohol, incidents where the SAMU intervenes…”. Neighbours also insist on the issue of terraces, “which no longer respect pedestrian space.” “The two metres social distance is not respected and there is an oversaturation of the public space. This contributes to a certain relaxation: everyone sells what they want at the door,” Casola complains.
He also criticises the circulation in the neighbourhood. Not only the work but also because the mobility plan is only ‘half completed’. “The traffic camera control is not operational and everyone parks where they want. Even heavy trucks are stationary at the back of the Lonja,” Casola said.
He also regrets the limited presence of the police. “There are serious problems with safety in the public space,” says Casola, who separates these problems from the works on the squares in the inner city. “To put an end to this, we need clear management rules. But neither the occupation of the public space, nor the circulation is clear, nor the tourist apartments,” he notes: “The city government does not close the tourist apartments that are clearly breaking the rules.”
Quality tourism, no backpackers
“Habits are created where people don’t come to the centre because they can’t come now and we don’t believe they will come back. They are moving to other neighbourhoods and commercial areas,” said María Dolores Boronat, spokesperson for neighbourhood group Ciutat Vella i Viva. Residents want “quality tourism, not backpackers.” Both Casola and Boronat speak of a major safety problem: “The neighbourhood is very unsafe, and we all see that.”
Many catering entrepreneurs in the city centre and agree with the analysis of the residents. “If we want our historic centre to remain unique, we must take action. And now”, says Gema Piqué, vice president of the association Hostelería de los Barrios de Valencia.
“When people go out to eat, they find the streets with very little light.” Piqué points out the city centre is “a labyrinth, where it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know it. And if the streets are dark, even more so. In addition, there is a security problem with the increasing number of people who have been robbed.”
“People who used to park in the Plaza de la Reina can’t because the car park is closed. But they have no alternative! If they arrive without knowing this, they leave the centre and do not return. They need to be shown how to get to another parking lot” demands Pique, who also complains about the dirt. “There are streets very close to the cathedral, such as the Santo Cáliz, where it often smells of urine. There is also a lot of graffiti: the special brigade that removed graffiti no longer exists,” Ortega criticises.
The Association of Merchants of the Historic Centre of Valencia and the Ensanche have also experienced a reduction in the number of companies. Rafa Torres, president of the association explains: “It is a very depressing environment. Tourism is far from what it used to be: a manager of a very ma A big hotel chain told me that in July 80% of the occupancy was national,” he says.
“We have lost a very important part of our customers. They normally come from the rest of the city districts and the metropolitan area. But because of mobility restrictions and because the use of EMT buses and Cercanías trains remains below average,” regrets Torres. “If everything is closed to private traffic before work and the accessibility in public transport is drastically reduced, a chaotic situation arises,” said the chairman of the shopkeepers.