Thursday, 24 April 2014

Outgoing minister nods to demolition of house in Prague centre

ČTK |
4 July 2013

Prague, July 3 (CTK) - Outgoing Czech Culture Minister Alena Hanakova definitively decided that an Art-Nouveau house in Prague centre would not be declared protected heritage and thus she opened the path to its planned demolition, her spokeswoman Lenka Brandtova told CTK Wednesday.

The house is situated at the corner of Wenceslas Square and Opletalova street in the Prague UNESCO-listed urban preservation area. It borders on the Jalta Hotel built in 1958 in the style of socialist-realism that enjoys the status of national cultural heritage.

The new owner of the house, the Flow East firm, plans to demolish the house and build a new one in the following years. The planned L-shaped building is to have three underground and nine overground floors. It is to house shops, offices and an underground parking lot.

The controversial project has stirred up debates and protests of experts and the public. Even former Czech president Vaclav Havel expressed disagreement with it in a letter to the Culture Ministry in 2011, a couple of month before his death.

Hanakova made her decision on the basis of the opinion of an expert commission that had been assessing the verdict of the Culture Ministry's heritage section, which had decided in 2012 not to declare the house culture heritage.

It ensues from Hanakova's final stance that the ministry cannot protect all buildings that are interesting from the architectonic viewpoint by declaring them culture heritage. This task is primarily up to local authorities.

The Prague City Hall approved the firm's intention to demolish the house in the past.

It argued that Flow East reckoned with the project to be materialised "in good faith" and it could demand a high compensation for its lost profit worth tens of millions of crowns from the Czech Republic.

This would be a too strong risk for the state, Hanakova said.

Now Flow East can apply for the demolition of the house. The proceedings on the construction of a new building to replace it are underway at the Prague 1 building office.

The firm has owned the house since 1994. It has renovated it since then and has never been informed that it should be declared culture heritage, it said.

The project costs, including the purchase of the old house and the plot, allegedly amounted to one billion crowns. The new building is to cost another billion.

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