Malostranské náměstí renovation could start in a year

The new administration at City Hall says that the square could be ready by 2021

Renovation work on Malostranské náměstí could begin by the start of 2020. There have been several delays since the project was announced, and a building permit was only issued at the start of December 2018.

But the issue is not yet settled. Several local residents have been appealing against the decision, and their objections are currently under review by the construction department at Prague City Hall.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague) said he believes that the planned restoration will begin this year, despite he objections.

“If the building permit becomes legally effective in the first half of 2019, construction works could start after the selection of a contractor at the turn of 2019 and 2020,” Hlaváček.

The work on the square would then be finished by 2021. The design is by architects Martin Hájek, Václav Hájek and Petr Horský, who won an architectural competition in 2014. The estimated cost of the project is Kč 120 million.

The renovation will create more space for pedestrians, and the traffic flow through the square will be changed.

The lower part of the square, which was formerly a parking lot, will have a public space for markets and events. There will be new uniform paving, matching the stones already used for tram track renovations, and a new fountain. Historical elements will include gas lamps. The top of the square will have benches, bicycle stands, a hand pump and trees.

Parking in the lower part of the square, used largely by politicians, ended in 2016. The renovation should also eliminate much of the parking in the upper part of the square, leaving only a single row of spots.

Local residents in Malá Strana oppose the further loss of parking spaces. They want the city to explore the idea of underground parking at the square.

Deputy Mayor Hlaváček said that during the preparations for the renovation, the concept of whether underground parking could be added in the future should be explored as a theoretical idea, but the renovation should take place as already planned.

Prague 1 has a new administration after the October 2018 local elections, and the current administration is no longer insisting on underground parking at the square.

Parking in Prague 1 remains an issue, though, that both the city, district and government ministries will continue to address.

A final controversy with the renovation is the restoration of the statue of Field Marshall Josef Radecký, which stood on the square from 1858 until 1921. It had been removed as part of a First Republic effort to take down Austro-Hungarian monuments. The complete bronze part of the statue is in the possession of the National Gallery. Unlike the Victory Column at Old Town Square, it was not destroyed.

The design from 2014 included the return of the statue, though to a slightly different location on the square, as the planned fountain is where the statue had been. Public opinion has been divided on putting back what some see as a symbol of hundreds of years of harsh foreign occupation.

“There would have to be a consensus, but I personally would not mind [the statute].

Historical architectural expert Rostislav Švácha often designates this monument as one of the most beautiful statues ever standing in Prague, which could be beneficial from a purely aesthetic point of view, “ Hlaváček said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes,
Malostranské náměstí has a long history going back the 13th century. For many centuries it had a massive fountain as its main feature, before the military statue was added. From 1928 to '40 the square had a statue of French historian Ernest Denis. It was taken down during World War II. A plaque with his bust was put up in 2003 on the facade of a building on the sqaure.

The name of the square has changed over the years. The square has long been divided into two parts, and was called Horní rynk and Dolní rynk (Upper and Lower Marketplace), and Malostranský rynek. The upper part as also called Vlašský plac, as many Italian merchants were there.

In the first half of the 19th century it became Štepanské námestí (Stephan Square), and after 1869 it was officially Malostranské náměstí, but people called it náměstí Maršála Radeckého, or Radecký Square.

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