Developers want more skyskrapers

Taller is better for the city, according to many experts in real estate

In order to prevent Prague from spreading across an ever-widening area, developers want to build new high-rise buildings of flats and offices. The most suitable locations are Pankrác, Holešovice and Vysočany, they claim. The higher concentration of people would result in lower costs to the city for transport and maintenance.

But not all residents favor Prague getting filled up with modern towers. Conservationists, in particular, oppose the concept, as it would affect the historical skyline. Developers, though, see it as the way forward.

The Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR) also counts on more high-rise buildings on the Pankrác plain and in Vysočany.

A higher concentration of inhabitants means lower costs of operation and maintenance for the city.

Rising prices for land also make high-rise projects more attractive for developers, as they get more flats and office per square meter.

“Today, Prague has 610,000 apartments, in 2030 it expects an increase to 700,000 apartments. Besides brownfield transformation, the construction of higher buildings is an ideal option for extending the housing stock. The city cannot continuously expand into the surrounding countryside because it can no longer provide services and comfort to its residents and visitors,” developer Finep spokesman David Jirušek said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

Population density in Prague in 2015 was 25 people per hectare, by 2030 Prague expects 29 people per hectare. This is still very low compared to other cities such as Munich with 47 people or Vienna with 45 people per hectare. Barcelona has 158 people per hectare, Jirušek said.

Petr Herman, director of HB Reavis in the Czech Republic told MfD that buildings over 200 meters tall make sense for the city, and that ones built by notable architects bring prestige that lasts to coming generations. He favors development in Holešovice because it is near the city center and has the Vltava river on three sides.

HB Reavis is building the Varso project in the center of Warsaw. It will be 310 meters tall when it is finished in 2020 and will be among the highest in Europe.

Experts, though, say most of the high-rise buildings so far in Prague are architecturally average and that there are not standout gems, such as the distinctive buildings in London’s skyline.

IPR spokesman Marek Vácha says the metropolitan plan counts on high-rise construction in Pankrác and Vysočany. But most of the city has strict height limits. The construction of buildings above 12 floors, which is the height of the current Prague building block, will be forbidden to 99.4 percent of Prague territory, he said. 

A survey conducted by IPR in 2016 showed that 60 percent of Prague residents do not mind high-rise buildings.

Construction of high-rise buildings in Pankrác in the past sparked criticism not only from civic associations but also from heritage conservationists. The issue has even been dealt with by UNESCO, as the center of has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, and a large area around the center is a buffer zone with strict architectural requirements. If the city’s skyline changes too much, the city could lose its UNESCO status.

The tallest building in the Czech Republic currently is the AZ Tower in Brno, ad 111 meters. The second is the City Tower in Prague’s Pankrác district at 109 meters. The V Tower in Pankrác will reach 104 meters when it is finished. Rezidence Eliška in Vysočany is next at 94 meters.

These are still tiny compared to the world’s tallest buildings, such as Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 828 meters. The iconic Empire State Building in New York is 381 meters. The tallest building in Europe is the Federation Tower: East Tower in Moscow, at 373.7 meters. The tallest building in the EU, at least until Brexit, is the Shard in London at 309.7 meters.

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