Břevnov may get futuristic highrise

Plans to replace an Art Nouveau building have met with local objections

Proposals for a housing development in Prague's Břevnov district include a futuristic skyscraper that has some local residents complaining that it would ruin the look of the neighborhood around the Kajetánka estate.

Of several options shown to the public, most local residents favored a plan for lowrise buildings. Some politicians, however, favor a plan that includes a 17-story cylindrical residential building.

Prague 6 Town Hall sold land around the Brusnice stream in 2008 for Kč 70 million. It was originally thought the developer would expand on an existing Art Nouveau apartment building that stands isolated on Radimova Street.

Prague 6 City Councilor Martin Polách (ANO), responsible for public space, was quoted by daily Mladá fronta Dnes as saying the original contract called for two wings to be added on the side of the existing building, creating 39,000 cubic meters of new space.

The historical apartment building belongs to they city and is administered by the Prague 6 district. Polách said the building was in disrepair, and it would cost Kč 30 million to Kč 60 million to fix it. The building has been empty since last year and its residents were given alternative housing.

Development firm Geosan Development at the request of the Prague 6 Town Hall showed its alternative plans for the site. Prague 6 posted six proposals for the area and asked residents to vote. A lowrisw set of buildings won, with the futuristic highrise cylinder coming in second. At a meeting of the Territorial Planning Commission, though, it was clear that some members preferred the highrise.

Architect Michal Volf of the civic group Pro Břevnov told Mladá fronta Dnes the survey of the public was just for show to let public have the illusion they were involved. He said that the cylindrical skyscraper would stick out like a sore thumb in the area and ruin the visual impact of the historical buildings such as a nearby monastery. Other civic groups also raised objections that the building would interfere with a greenway that includes Malovanka, Břevnovský klášter, Vypich and Hvězda.

Polách said local people oppose both options because the want to preserve the Art Nouveau apartment building, which is in too poor of a condition.

Volf, however, says his group is mainly concerned with the haphazard approach of the district, which does not inform people of projects until it is too late to have meaningful input. He also point out that the proposed highrise will overshadow a 17th century polygonal-shape chapel, and that the chapel will be left standing on a token amount of land. The Chapel of the Visitation of Our Lady, only part of which remains, has been not been used since the end of the 18th century.

Polách says building the highrise will not be a precedent to develop more green areas, as most of the areas in question are designated as green spaces in the city's development plan. The only other place that could be renovated is Vincentinum.

Prague 6 Deputy Mayor Eva Smutná said she was looking at the pluses and minuses of both options. She added that the district had been dealing with the developer for four months on the project. The proposed highrise is 100 meters beyond the line that prohibits tall buildings, and it also adheres to other local requirements, she says.

Geosan Development said it was preparing documentation for zoning for the lowrise option, based on public opinion, but declined to say if it was also still exploring possibilities for the highrise option.

The Town Hall says that further negotiations are needed with the developer to get a clear view of how best to proceed, and that the will to build the highrise still existed.

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