Prague may allow skyscrapers in more places

A proposed zoning plan would cover city development for the next two decades

Prague is known as a city of historical buildings, and for much of the city there are limits on how tall new buildings can be so as not to interfere with the city's skyline. But the existing rules are a patchwork.

That my soon change, as a new zoning plan for Prague that would take effect in 2020 would allow skyscrapers in more sections of the city. Currently, tall buildings can only be found mainly in the Pankrác section of Prague 4, which is home to the city's tallest building, the 109-meter-tall City Tower.

(The country's tallest building, however, is the 111-meter AZ Tower in Brno, South Moravia.)

The Prague plan, though, has already faced some criticism from politicians and conservation groups.

Places in Prague that may newly be allowed to have skyscrapers include Roztyly, Chodov, Rohanský ostrov, Vysočany and Libeň. The highest buildings will be allowed along the Metro C line. Not all the 14 proposed areas are expected to make it into the final draft.

But those areas account for less than 1 percent of the city's area. For 99.4 percent of the city, buildings would not be allowed to exceed 12 stories, the common height of prefabricated residential buildings.

The plan has been developed by the city's Institute of Planning and Development (IPR), and it will codify building height requirements. Currently there is no such codification, and tall buildings have been allowed to arise randomly, the IPR said on its website.

The proposal is still open for discussion and comments from the public are welcome for the next several months. Consideration of the plan, under the legal meaning, has not yet started but could begin in September.

The plan is a new comprehensive approach and looks to give the city a pathway to sustainable development.

“In the last 50 years, zoning plans focused mainly on the use of individual zones — to put it simply, whether there should be a confectionery or a doctor’s office. These days, we are much more focused on how the buildings affect their vicinity, what streets, squares, and parks look like, wherever they are located, be it a quarter of villas, blocks of buildings or housing estates. The plan will now also determine how tall new buildings can be at maximum,” Petr Hlaváček, the director of Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR), said when the plan was announced.

The plan has been under development since 2012 and will control the development of the city for the next two decades. It also seeks to stop the outward sprawl of the city by encouraging redevelopment of disused rail stations and former factories within the city, which already have access to the necessary infrastructure.

Up to four additional floors could be added to existing buildings in some areas, but some of the additional height is meant for corner accents, as is already common in the city.

Some groups have already reacted to the plan. The Club for Old Prague (Klub Za starou Prahu) expressed concerns that the plan might weaken monument protection in the city center and alter the character of the neighborhoods around the historical center. The club was also concerned about increased traffic in some areas.

Deputy Prague Mayor Petra Kolinska (three-party coalition / SZ) also has some concerns about increased traffic and also about what potential benefits to the quality of life, if any, the tall buildings will bring to the areas where they are built.

Jižní Město District Mayor Jiří Štyler (Hnutí pro Prahu 11) also joined those worried about the impact of tall buildings on traffic and infrastructure, which he says is already used to its capacity.

He added that concerns of the individual city districts have not been taken into account sufficiently.

The IPR countered that the new zoning plan would not override the existing protections for the core of the city, and that traffic flow is being taken into consideration.

Preparation of the plan has cost some Kč 50 million. A team of experts is currently assessing whether the plan is line with the existing Building Code and how to make it conform to the existing laws.

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