It’s not a particularly impressive street, and the grimy public area behind the Národní třída metro entrance serves as a popular venue for pickpockets and the homeless. King Charles IV originally planned Spálená street as part of a grand route for the coronation procession of Czech kings leading from Prague Castle to Vyšehrad. These days, though, like so many parts of Prague, the area is being redeveloped with the aim to pull in processions of shoppers.
Prague 1 announced yesterday it has issued the final necessary building permit for the construction of the Copa centrum, a multi-functional centre that will go up above the metro entrance on Národní třída, just behind Tesco.
Since this is one of the last lots in Prague that can be built upon and given the historic nature of the location, the project has been in the works for a long time. The permit has yet to come into effect, but construction should kick off by the end of this year.
The CZK 2.5 billion project will be composed of six interconnected buildings, based on a design by the Czech-American studio Cigler Marani Architects. Vincent Marani and Jakub Cigler are also involved in designing the planned reconstruction of Wenceslas Square. The developer is Copa, a company owned by Sebastian Pawlowski, who is responsible for such projects as Slovanský dům reconstruction and the Hotel u Zlatého anděla on Celetná street.
Once complete, the Copa centrum, which is to be integrated with Tesco on some level, will have more than 50,000 square metres of floor space. Of that 17,000 square metres will be taken up by offices and 12,000 square metres by shops, including cafes, bars and restaurants. It will also include 50 flats, a new metro entrance and a public square on the site that today houses a fruit and vegetable market. Completion is slated for early 2011.
While building is going on, the Národní třída metro station will be shut down for about a year, something many Praguers seem upset over. More than 5,000 people have signed a petition against the closure of the station. Since this station has just one entrance, leaving the station open during construction is impossible.
The project itself also has many opponents. One of these is Klub za starou Prahu (KZSP), a historical preservation socity, which argues that the building, which is to tower over Tesco by 6.5 metres or two stories, will be too tall and massive. In a KZSP newsletter, the society’s executive head Richard Biegel writes that the City Hall’s heritage department should have never greenlighted the project. Indeed, the National Heritage Institute (not affiliated with City Hall) was strongly against the project; however, the City Hall’s own preservationists chose to ignore this recommendation.
Biegel concedes that it was inevitable that a building would go up on one of Prague’s most lucrative lots that are still available. The empty space behind Tesco was created in the 1970s when a block of baroque buildings was torn down. He argues, however, that the project’s volume will overpower its surroundings and upset the architectural balance of Spálená street.