Prague squares to be renovated

The city's largest square, Karlovo náměstí, may finally be upgraded

Karlovo náměstí is not very inviting for pedestrians and is an eyesore, according to the administration of the Prague 2 district. It is one of the largest urban squares in the world, measuring roughly 70,000 square meters, and was the largest town square in medieval Europe. It was founded in 1348 by Emperor Charles IV as a cattle market and has been a park since the 1860s. But in its current form, people do not use it as much as they could, tending to hurry through when they use it at all.

A study by the city's Institute of Planning and Urban Development (IPR) shows that most people think of the place as something to drive through rather than a place to stop and rest. The study, which also has plans on how to convert the park, is a year and half old. The plan has been stalled, but some progress may take place in 2017, according to Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) and Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD).

Dolínek told the media that he and the mayor hoped for some strong progress after years of toying with the idea, and they had met with Prague 2 district representatives and found a way to start some movement toward making changes.

Prague 2 Deputy Mayor Václav Vondrášek (ODS), in charge of zoning and development, would also like to see some progress, but he adds that the traffic police and conservationists have some objections. He also says that who would be in charge of the project has not been determined, but that should soon be settled. City Hall is currently handling all potential objections to the project, but that could change after January.

The main objection according to both Dolínek and Vondrášek comes from the traffic police, who are reluctant to place crossings for temporary tram stops at Resslova Street. These are key for the entire project. Currently people cross by the Church of St. Ignatius at Ječná street and walk through the park to get to the other side for trams. During work to rebuild the park, that won't be possible.

Dolínek said that new management is coming for the traffic police, and the cooperation with the city looks like it will be better. He said that the incoming management is more serious about some of the city's planned projects, and that the two sides need to find a consensus so that safety rules can be followed while at the same time something can be done to improve the life of Prague residents. He added that it was nonsensical to place crossings where people were unlikely to use them.

Mayor Krnáčová also would like to see progress made next year regarding Wenceslas Square, where there are plans to make it more friendly for pedestrians. She said that the city already had zoning permission and should get building permits in March or April of 2017. The lower part of the square could be rebuilt by 2018.

She also would like to see progress on transforming Malostranské náměstí, which in July 2016 was changed from a parking lot into a pedestrian area, but aside form the addition of some tables and chairs so far has not been physically altered to make it more usable. Plans for that are still under discussion, and some include controversial elements such as reintroducing the statue of a Hapsburg-era military leader, Marshall Radecký, that had long been on the square but was taken down during the First Republic. There are also plans to redevelop náměstí Jana Palacha that the mayor would like to see progress on.

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