Madrid’s landmark Gran Vía shows off new facelift after nine months of roadworks

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Thanks to the €6.5 million-project, the famous avenue now has more space for pedestrians, wooden benches and new traffic lights

The project to remodel the landmark Gran Vía avenue in Spain’s capital Madrid has been completed after nine months of roadworks. The new Gran Vía now features more space for pedestrians, new traffic lights, wooden and stone benches and two fewer traffic lanes. Work on the capital’s most famous street began in March and cost €6.5 million. It is the first time the street has been overhauled in its 100-year history.

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena is set to inaugurate the new Gran Vía on Friday afternoon. As well as having new traffic lights and street benches (110 made from stone and 34 from wood), the popular street now has 89 ornamental pear trees (Pyrus Chanticleer), a species that adapts well to the urban environment.

The wooden benches came out of an ideas competition won by architect Marcos Plazuelo for his project “I had three chairs in my house.” The project consists of a three-piece wooden bench with back support and armrests. One of the first people to try the new street furniture was Esperanza Aguirre, the former Popular Party (PP) candidate for Madrid City Hall, who was a vocal opponent to the remodeling project. “If even Aguirre sits on the new benches, they’re sure to have a lot of success,” said Carmena last Tuesday.

Gran Vía is known for its emblematic buildings but it is also home to “The Heavies,” twin brothers who have appeared every day for the last 17 years in tribute to the former Madrid Rock store on Gran Vía No. 25.

The twins say lengthy construction work caused “veritable chaos.” “It was like we were in little Vietnam in the middle of a bombing,” says José Alcázar. “All this for what?” asks his brother Emilio. “Gran Vía has become a bottleneck for traffic.”

But not everyone is so critical of the new-look Gran Vía.

“Today Madrid City Hall inaugurates Madrid’s new City Hall. Among other things, trees have been planted with the promise of spring colors, benches have been placed to stop the rush that comes over us […]; environmentally friendly traffic lights have been put up […] And, I don’t know, suddenly I want to go back to walking along Gran Vía, and show that some behavior can change if they give us the tools to do it,” wrote EL PAIS columnist Elvira Sastre.