Renovation of Wenceslas Square moving forward

After years of inaction, the city is coming closer to getting a building permit

The renovation of the lower part of Wenceslas Square is significantly closer to taking place.

Prague 1 has filed an application for planning permission, which is the last required step before obtaining a building permit. Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová and City Councilors Jan Wolf and Daniel Hodek confirmed the information at a news conference.

"I'm glad we could finally ask for a zoning decision, although I think it could have been accomplished by one of the previous city councils. The architectural competition was held already in 2005, and since then the renovation has not made much progress,” Krnáčová said. “Wenceslas Square is historically one of the most important public spaces in Prague, but due to the many insensitive changes it has lost its social function. We want to return it to its purpose because we have long been trying to return public spaces to the people,” Krnáčová said.

The plan, as seen in a visualization, calls for the sidewalks to be widened and the street to be be turned into a pedestrian zone lined by trees. The public has 15 days to comment on the plan, and in the interest of transparency the Building Authority will have a public hearing where people can examine the project and have questions answered, said Hodek, who is also deputy mayor of Prague 1.

A working group has been pursuing the project for a year, Wolf said. “The situation on Wenceslas Square is unsatisfactory, and I am glad that in the [700th] anniversary year of birth of [Emperor] Charles IV, we will obtain zoning permission. In a short time, then, we should have a competition for the project documentation and contractor, " said Wolf, who is also chairman of the working group on Wenceslas Square.

The most optimistic scenario sees the end of 2016 as the date when the zoning decision should be final, and by mid-2017 Prague would like to obtain a building permit. The cost of renovation is estimated at Kč 150 million.

Wenceslas Square has been the scene of several significant episodes of Czechoslovak history. On Oct. 28, 1918, Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue. During the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, tanks mistook the National Museum at the top of the square for the Parliament building. During the Velvet Revolution in 1989, thousands of people converged on the square to call for the end of communism.

But in the 1900s and 2000s, the area near the square became filled with strip clubs and The city has been long hoping to revitalize the area. Many but not all of the buildings around the square are landmarks.

The square was created by Charles IV in 1348 as part of the design for New Town, and for centuries served as a horse market. It wasn't called Wenceslas Sqaure (Václavské náměstí) until 1848, when proponents of the Czech national awakening movement called for a more significant name. Duke Wenceslas I, assassinated in 935 AD, is the patron saint of Bohemia.

The statue of St Wenceslas that is now on the top of the square was made by Josef Václav Myslbek between 1887 and 1924. It replaced a smaller stone statue made by Johann-Georg Bendl in the 1650s. That statue was moved to Vyšehrad in 1879.

Visualizations of the renovated square can be seen on the City Hall website: www.praha.eu (CZ)

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