On Thursday, Prague presented its plans with the listed Prague Market, which is home to greengrocers, an alien from Alza, circus performers and, for example, prostitutes. Over the next fifteen years, the city wants to pour up to three billion crowns into the area, break through the perimeter wall in many places and start earning money for renting space. The city promises that the name of the Prague Market will soon be known all over the world.
Few places in the metropolis have offered more diverse services during the last fifty years than the Prague Market Square, sometimes called Holešovická. Until the first half of the 1980s, thousands of cattle rushed to their deaths every month after the local pavement between Art Nouveau houses. The whole area served as a slaughterhouse.
However, since their transformation into a market in 1983, many things have been sold here. From vegetables and wine to medicines and keyboards to light women at the local Showpark club.
But as the years went by, the area fell into disrepair. And so much so that a fifth of the local buildings are no longer used today. According to the city, this was due to protracted lawsuits with the then operator of the market, Delta Center. “The former tenant did not invest in the complex, he did not take care of it,” says Deputy Mayor Pavel Vyhnánek (Prague himself).
Last year, however, the court ruled that the notice given by the company for non-payment of rent was legally in order. After the verdict, the city quickly started planning the future of the market and now presented the first visualization of how the market should be transformed by two to three billion, which the municipality is going to invest in it.
The main goal is to preserve the Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau buildings and at the same time their thorough repair. “The Prague Market Square is a cultural monument. That is why we approached it in such a way that interventions should be minimal and it is necessary to preserve the original character of the area,” says architect Vít Máslo, author of the urban-architectural study of the transformation of the entire area.
Prague Market Square Video: CMC Architecs
In addition to the repair of individual halls, according to him, there will actually be only three interventions in the entire large area. The first will be to break through the perimeter wall in several places so that the area is more interconnected with the surrounding buildings. After all, there is no risk of cattle running away from the market for several decades.
The second intervention is to be the partition of hall number 9, where Alza has its headquarters today. The sales giant is still planned in the area, but according to the architects, one of it will have to be a little more modest. The freed space will serve as a passage for an otherwise huge hall, which must be bypassed today.
The third and most visible intervention will be the new lookout tower, which is to grow in the middle of the market right next to the water tower. The lookout tower is supposed to be as high as the chimney that stood here years ago. Otherwise, however, the architects swear by trying to stay as faithful as possible to what the marketplace has looked like for more than a hundred years.
The market is not just for the rich
As well as a square that some things simply do not have. In particular, he talks about the fact that all Praguers will still be welcome in the Prague Market Square. “I meet with fears that when we repair the market, it will only be for the highest income groups. But I can promise that we make sure that any inhabitant of Prague finds specific incomes what they are looking for, and I feel good,” says Vyhnánek.
The fears of Praguers do not come from clear skies. At the same time, the city promises a market for everyone and makes it clear that it intends to earn money for the operation of the complex in the future. “The task was for the Prague public to like going to the market, but at the same time to be in the black, which is not entirely customary in Prague,” says Ondřej Boháč, director of the Institute of Planning and Development.
One can only predict that until the Prague area is repaired, it will invest billions of crowns, raise the rent for local companies, and that is possible. So far, no one has confirmed that it is the music of the future, but at the same time, the city stated that it expected a return on investment, ie two to three billion crowns, within thirteen to sixteen years. What time the potential for increased rents will have on the availability of services and whether it will occur at all, but only time will tell.
During the reconstruction, a lot of greenery and water features are to be added to the area, not only so that the market looks older. Trees, shrubs, fountains and sprays are intended to help architects solve one fundamental problem of the area – anyone who has visited it during hot summer days can confirm that the place of the market is more like a hearth.
“The area functions as a heat island in the summer months and it is almost non-survivable here,” confirms Butter. That is also why, according to him, there should be large tanks in the underground of the market, which will catch the rain and from which water will eventually be pumped to cool the surface.
There is a long way to the new market
But one thing is clear – who would look forward to looking into a new and “shiny” market in a year or two, will be disappointed. “We still have a long way to go,” admits Pavel Vyhnánek.
The documents that the city had prepared divide the reconstruction into three stages. During the first one, the area should invest mainly in infrastructure by 2022. Most buildings will get new gas, water and electricity connections. These are missing in many of them, or they are in a similar bad condition as most of the area. “Even if we renovated some buildings now, we would not be able to connect to the network,” Vyhnánek said.
The three halls closest to the Vltava and the tram stop there should be the first to be repaired. The city wants to rent them to cafes, restaurants and bars, and at the same time smaller shops should be established here, which could rent start-up entrepreneurs for a limited period of time under advantageous conditions.
Generally speaking, the urban study has divided the market into seven different zones, with slightly different services to be offered in each. “There will be normal shops and boutiques, markets, restaurants and small bistros, as well as spaces for culture. And also beautiful outdoor spaces where you can just sit with ice cream in hand,” describes Vyhnánek.
For example, the central promenade should be full of mobile stalls and should function more like a promenade from which visitors will scatter to the surrounding streets and other zones. And, for example, in the west square there is to be a space for concerts and Christmas or flea markets.
The completion of the second stage is expected in 2026. The entire complex is then to be completely renovated in 2035. However, the market should remain accessible to visitors at all times.
According to Vyhnánek, the city expects that the market will one day gain worldwide fame thanks to repairs. “We believe that this is a truly unique complex that Praguers will one day be justifiably proud of. I think it can become famous worldwide,” says the deputy.
According to him, Praguers should be grateful that the plans of the communists, who wanted to have the market in the 1970s and 1980s demolished and build a housing estate in its place, were never realized. “We are very lucky that this barbarism did not happen,” he adds.
In the new one without prostitution
As for the current tenants of the individual halls, it is expected that a large part of them will remain in the complex, such as the already mentioned Alza. Others will have to go through a transformation. For example, while the Asian market should still remain in the area, it should get a much more modern look.
On the contrary, for some companies, the city is quite sure that it no longer wants them on the premises. Such is especially the brothel Showpark, in which several hundred prostitutes offer their services. If it was at the municipality, he would no longer be in the market.
However, the brothel is suing the city and claims that the contract he concluded with the former administrator of the Delta Center complex is still valid. For the first time, a judge is due to rule on a case in June.
According to Vyhnánek, however, it is only a formality and the brothel will soon not be on the premises. According to him, Showpark never had a lease agreement with the city, but only with the former administrator of Delta Centers. And as already mentioned, the contract between this administrator and the city was canceled by the court and, according to Vyhnánek, the lease agreement automatically expires, on the basis of which the hall is used by a brothel.
Showpark CEO Zbyněk Matela still hopes that the court will decide in his favor. However, he admits that his company is already looking around to where the brothel could move. “We are negotiating with the owners of interesting properties in the wider center of Prague, with the advent of the epidemic we were also approached by owners of housing units that used to serve primarily for Airbnb.