Thursday, 14 June 2012

Barcelona: arrival and the first two days

The MSc field trip to Barcelona began with a very early rendezvous at Heathrow airport. At 5.00am.  On a Sunday morning (27 May). A group lunch in Barcelona made up for the early start and the students (and staff) took in some of the sites during the afternoon.

Gaudi's La Pedrera - photo by David Shiers

Gaudi details - photo by David Shiers

Monday (28 May) started at the more civilised time of 10.00am with a presentation given by Javier Asensio, Associate Professor at the Department of Applied Economics, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. The presentation examined the property market in Barcelona from an economic viewpoint. This was followed by another presentation on the economic feasibility of urban renewal in Barcelona. This second presentation was given by Joaquim Clusa of Mur&Clusa who drew on an immense body of consultancy work to explain how the costs, obligations and profit from development are distributed between landowners, developers and local government.

Presentation from Javier Asensio - photo by Geoff Keogh

The students enjoyed a late lunch (this is Spain) and then returned to the meeting room for individual vivas on the Barcelona property market with staff from the Department of Real Estate and Construction. The students were asked to explain the main findings from their pre-visit desk study and their agenda for information gathering in Barcelona.

Tuesday 29 May and the students split into two groups. The first group went on a visit to the Glòries Shopping Centre. The Glòries Shopping Centre is a semi-open mall with three main buildings focusing on fashion, entertainment and food. It was developed as part of an urban renewal project in 1992 and first opened in 1995. It was then renovated in 2001, with a new phase of renovation underway now.

Glories Shopping Centre - photo by Geoff Keogh

The second group visited an office development in the 22@ area. 22@, also known as the innovation district, is a major project to transform the former industrial area of Poblenou into a centre for the promotion of knowledge-based activity, as well as providing new educational, leisure and housing facilities for the local population. Poblenou was known as the Catalan Manchester in the 19th century and the project takes its name from the urban planning classification 22A denoting industrial use. It's still under construction, although progress has been slowed down by the economic crisis, and is one of Europe's biggest urban regeneration schemes which began in 2000 when plans were approved by the city council (thanks Wikipedia). The students had a presentation on the office development at Cami Antic de Valencia 54 and were invited to make a judgement on its investment potential, given its location and predicted market conditions over the next few years. This scheme reverted to the bank that financed it after the original developers defaulted. Building only commenced after a complex funding arrangement and pre-sale to a property fund, who modified the design to create a more space efficient and green building.

Cami Antic de Valencia 54 - photo by Geoff Keogh

They then walked through the heart of the 22@ zone to make a visual assessment of property mix, availability of space, accessibility, representative occupiers and so on (all photos by Geoff Keogh).

Traditional tenement housing shares the same block as the office development... build residential across the street... 

...and one block away this development has been mothballed.

If you're interested in finding out more about the 22@ zone, take a look at the following video:

The two groups then moved onto the offices of Barcelona City Council for two presentations: the first was given by Maria Sisternas from the City Council and focused on urban planning in Barcelona; the second was given by Rosina Vinyes i Ballbe from 22@ Barcelona and focused on the 22@ project.

The illuminated map in the floor of the Sala Barcelona at the city planning offices - photo by Geoff Keogh

The view of Barcelona from above clearly shows the results of urban planning in the 19th century when the city became famous as a model of ideal urban planning. Interested? Take a look here and here. Or watch the following video:

The day finished with a presentation about commercial property investment in Barcelona from Nick Wride of Jones Lang LaSalle.

What happened next? Read 'Barcelona: the last two days and departure' to find out.

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