It has been waiting for even fifteen years, since 2005, when a design from the Cigler Marani Architects studio won the architectural competition. Finally, the reconstruction of Wenceslas Square did not begin until last year, when the Prague leadership began work on the lower part of one of the most important areas of the metropolis.
Now the first phase of the reconstruction is about halfway through, and despite the fact that its completion is slightly delayed due to modifications to the project, it is to be completed in the spring of next year. Wenceslas Square is thus approaching its new and nicer form.
Its surface will be unified, new trees and benches will be added, and the return of trams is planned. And the modifications will also have a great impact on the business and entrepreneurial activities that take place in the square and in its immediate vicinity. A good public space can attract not only people but also money.
Although Wenceslas Square is a prestigious Prague address, it has not yet met some of the requirements of a premium place. “The square did not meet the standards for such an important place in Czech history and the present,” says Jaromír Hainc, director of the City Detail Section of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development.
According to him, the quality of public space in each square determines which traders in the surrounding houses want to have their stores and what services are offered to passers-by. “Over the decades, the structure of shops on Wenceslas Square has changed a lot, as has the use of the ground floor and the first floors of houses. I believe that together with other investments they will bring a new impetus to the reconstruction of the square, “he adds.
In addition, according to him, the level of public space is directly related to, for example, rental prices and the value of individual properties. This is also confirmed by Jan Kotrbáček, partner and leader of the retail space leasing team for Central and Eastern Europe from Cushman & Wakefield. “Thanks to the complete reconstruction of the square and the environment, the attractiveness of the area for traders and entrepreneurs will continue to grow, and thus also for investors,”.
Repairs to individual buildings have the same effect. The equation is simple. If houses are renovated, the interest of potential tenants and buyers grows. “There are properties on Wenceslas Square that will be reconstructed in the future. We already know today that quality companies will be interested in them, which will further contribute to improving the offer of tenants’ compositions, attractiveness for customers, and of course the growing value of real estate, “says Kotrbáček.
According to him, the reconstructed square will also attract new tenants. “We perceive their interest especially in newly renovated buildings or new projects, such as the introduction of the complex Savarin,” he adds. The Savarin Palace project is being prepared by the Crestyl development and investment group, which wants to complete it in about three years. The Savarin was designed by British architect Thomas Heatherwick.
The entire palace and the space inside the building blocks, which are part of the project, are directly adjacent to Wenceslas Square. The square will connect with the passage with Na Příkopě, Jindřišská and Panská streets.
The project also includes the reconstruction of existing historic buildings and the creation of a new public space with greenery, open space in the courtyard and commercial areas.
Savarin will join the reconstruction of the square as an impetus for another influx of money. However, a certain transformation of the square, which for a long time was a place where people did not stay too long, is already evident now. Paradoxically, this was helped by the covid-19 pandemic, which caused some companies to change.
“Thanks to the current reconstruction, but also thanks to the covid, the square is gradually being significantly cultivated. The number of stores with guaranteed Czech glass and matryoshka dolls is declining, and new concepts are being added. For example, bakeries, smaller bistros, shops of Czech designers in passages, “says Jan Adámek, director of the JAN Reality real estate agency and chairman of the New Town Association of Prague, which has long been dedicated to life and business in the vicinity of Wenceslas Square.
“When the reconstruction is completed, there will be a significant increase in the square of young people and also families, because it will be a pleasant, partially barrier-free, beautiful place for them,” he predicts.
According to him, local entrepreneurs and merchants will also benefit from the reconstructed square from an economic point of view. “The number of customers will increase, people will have more time for shopping, lunch, culture. It will be better seen on shop windows. There will be a clean and pleasant environment where people, visitors, tourists, locals will be happy to return, “he says.
And he adds that the socio-demographic profile of people moving around the square will also change. According to Adamek, this is evident, for example, in the recently opened store of the clothing chain Primark, which brought a larger number of girls and women aged fifteen to forty to Wenceslas Square.
Primark, which opened the largest brand sale in Central Europe on Wenceslas Square in June, is one of the proofs that the square still belongs, despite the unfinished reconstruction, to the long-term most important business, social and cultural locations in Central Europe.
“On an area of over 750 meters and 60 meters wide, it offers a number of very interesting properties, which have generous spaces for many shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, which have their flagship or reference stores for the Czech Republic and often Central Europe.” describes Kotrbáček.
He also confirms that the quality of the environment in the square is gradually improving and thus the offer of shops and services. “On Wenceslas Square we can find the largest stores of most brands and retailers in the region, such as the German department store with premium fashion Van Graaf with a size of almost ten thousand square meters, two C&A stores, the largest Neoluxor bookstore in the country of almost four thousand meters, the largest Foot Locker in Central Europe with a total area of almost fourteen meters and more, “says Kotrbáček.
“I am firmly convinced that the attractiveness of Wenceslas Square will continue to grow in the long run, and with it the value of local real estate. All this is the reason why the place will continue to be the focus of attention of both retail brands and real estate investors, “he adds.
According to Adamek, the fact that more people will live around Wenceslas Square can also help business. Recently, there has been a rather outflow of residents. And it is the reconstruction of the square that could help people in its vicinity to live better. “This has created new shops and services that you need to have around your home. And that, in turn, will bring new blood to local traders, ”explains Adámek.
Trams are supposed to be the impetus
Reconstruction of the lower part of Wenceslas Square will cost a total of 430 million crowns. According to the original plans, it was supposed to be finished this year, and finally the deadline is postponed to next spring. The delays are due to some changes in the tender documents of the contract won by the construction company Hochtief.
Because of them, the city council has to sign an addendum to the contract in the coming weeks. The modifications concern, for example, the location of trees or the construction of blind tram tracks, which are ready for a possible connection of the upper part of the square with Na Příkopě Street.
“Archaeological work continues, engineering networks are being laid and surfaces are being laid. We expect the lower part of the square to be completed by next year, “says Vít Hofman, a spokesman for the municipality, stating that the work on the lower half of the square is about sixty percent.
However, the city management is also preparing the reconstruction of the upper half of the square, where, after long debates, a tram connecting Vodičkova with Vinohradská Street will eventually run.
It is the new tram line that should be the impetus for business and life on “Václavák” in the future. “Trams are an urban element. People don’t have to climb underground, get out right in the square and go to the store they like. In this way, trams will get more busy people in the square, “says Adámek, noting that such examples can also be seen in foreign cities, such as Berlin, Vienna or Copenhagen.
“For the city to work, it needs people out on the street, people in shops, people communicating, people having fun with passers-by. And the tram brings such people and takes them away, “he adds.
According to Adam Scheinherr, the deputy mayor for transport, the planned construction of tram tracks on Wenceslas Square should begin at the end of next year.