In line with the urban transformation process happening in Barcelona, operations related to El Raval's city center were initiated and projects were introduced in an effort to address social, economic...

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This is the second article in a set of five that will detail the transformation of El Raval from a Chinatown to cultural center of Barcelona.

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Rambla de Raval (Photo credit: matilde.m.s)

[Part 1:  El Raval, Barcelona: History]

In line with the urban transformation process happening in Barcelona, operations related to El Raval’s city center were initiated and projects were introduced in an effort to address social, economic, and security issues within the city. Launched with a focus on particular parts of the city during the democratization process, PERI Plans (Localized Planning Projects) were also prepared for Raval in 1985. The PERI of Raval was changed in 1995 and completed in 2000. The first intervention subject for the PERI of Raval was the opening of Rambla de Raval. As the former urban fabric consisted of dark, narrow streets making criminal acts easier to commit and security measures harder to take, Rambla de Raval, at a width of 59 meters and a length of 317 meters, was opened. This resulted in the destruction of 1384 residences and 293 workplaces which also caused a reduction in the number of vehicles and traffic density in the region (Bataller, 2003).

Literally meaning boulevard, Rambla was designed as a public space to encourage social interaction between people of different cultures and ethnical groups, despite the fact that its dimensions do not qualify it as a public square. Planned as an open space where people could safely come together, Rambla was also designed with the anticipation that it could host many events (Bataller, 2003).

Following Raval’s decline, landlords who preferred to move from Raval to newly developed districts rented their houses to young male immigrants working in illegal and unqualified jobs in the center of the city. Because the immigrants tolerated the neglected but inexpensive housing, the landlords did not provide any maintenance services to their tenants. The central government intervened in this situation by imposing sanctions upon the landlords to make them provide the necessary maintenance work in their houses. The central government also offered financial advantages for the landlords, such as tax discounts (Bataller, 2003). As a result of these legal actions, 49.8% of the buildings in Northern Raval and 40.8% of buildings in Southern Raval have been rehabilitated (Subirats and Rius, 2006).

The new complex planned in Raval

The new complex planned in Raval.

Another intervention in Raval was the construction of a building complex, which was integrated to the PERI of Raval in 2001 and consists of 11,300 m² houses, 9,400 m of offices and 9,300 m² of hotels and trading areas, in addition to a parking area for 556 vehicles. Two blocks near Rambla de Raval known as Illa de Raval, along with another piece of block, were destroyed for the construction of this complex. People who had been residing in the destroyed buildings, approximately 150 residences, were allocated newly built homes in exchange for their former residence.

After 1998, the rental prices in El Raval was a few euros less than the Barcelona average, and in 2003 the Raval’s rental prices exceeded the Barcelona average.  The same kind of growth rate can also be observed at the second–hand housing market. Currently, the price of any property in Raval can be sold for three times its price 10 years ago. In comparison, the price ratio in Barcelona is only two times higher. It is expected that the increases in both the rental and second-hand housing market will continue.  The general idea behind this increase not only involves the interventions in Raval but also the general popularity Barcelona has gained in recent years.

With the transformation of Raval:

  • Ten hectares of new public space have been created
  • Two new parks and 26 additional squares have opened
  • More than 4,000 trees were planted
  • 1,700 new homes (including 400 modernized dwellings and 1,300 newly designed ones) were built
  • 439 street-lights were installed
  • Six new civic centers have been opened
  • Three new senior citizen homes have been built
  • Five additional sport complexes have been constructed

References

Bataller A. (2003) “La viviende en el centro historico de Barcelona, el caso de la Rambla del Raval”, Scripta Nova, Universidad de Barcelona, vol. VII

Subirats J., Rius J. (2006)  From the  Xino to the Raval, the Centre de Cultura Contemporànea de Barcelona, Barcelona