Madrid’s new mayor, Manuela Carmena, is working together with local businesses to give the city’s Plaza Mayor a makeover, according to Spanish daily El País
City Hall said that it needed to “rethink” the square, one of Madrid’s main tourist spots. The square is surrounded by traditional bars, restaurants and boutiques, as well as several souvenir shops under its porticoes.
Local business owners are meeting with Carmena this week to discuss the makeover, which would include “creating a cultural agenda for the plaza”, including the introduction of concerts, theatre performances and exhibitions, with a different theme every month.
The previous mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella from the country’s ruling Popular Party, initiated a renovation of the square worth an estimated €3.3 million.
The renovation, which is currently in its first stage, includes restoring the facades of the buildings around the square, as well as repairing guttering, roofs and cornices.
Thanks to Botella, Madrid's main square became infamous around the world when, in a speech during the campaign to hold the 2020 Olympic Games in Madrid, she uttered the immortal phrase:
“There is nothing quite like a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor.”
Spaniards immediately began mocking Botella's grasp of English and making fun of the fact she assumed cafe con leche was a well understood phrase in English.
Her speech provoked hundreds of YouTube parodies and even inspired souvenir shops around the plaza to start selling T-shirts emblazoned with the famous phrase.
Despite the improvements to the square started by Botella, however, local businesses think the current improvements are not enough.
According to the association representing businesses located around the historic square, Hosteleros Plaza Mayor, the plaza “has serious problems that need a rapid solution after years of indifference”.
The association, which counts the oldest restaurant in the world, Casa Botín and the covered market, Mercardo de San Miguel, among its members, has complained about the wasted space on the square.
They also complain that it has become a “stronghold of the marginalized” during the night, referring to the homeless people who often sleep around the plaza.
“It is unbelievable the spectacle of social misery,” the association said, according to El País.
Construction of Plaza Mayor began in 1617 under the reign of Philip III. The square has been designed under the reign of his father, Philip II by renowned classical architect, Juan de Herrera.
The square was renovated by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1790 after a series of fires.