A Kingdom on Karmelicka

Following a decade of bureaucratic wrangling, work on a £55 million multifunctional complex, which includes a hotel, cinema and multi-level car park has finally begun in central Krakow.

Running along the back of the Provincial Public Library, in between Karmelicka and Dolnych Mlynow streets, the project will occupy a barren piece of land that was used as a military training yard in the 1990s. Years of corrosion on the gabled walls of the adjacent residential buildings will finally be remedied.

Included in the concept is a four-star Hilton Garden Inn with 190 rooms, an eight-screen cinema complex and a car park for 500 vehicles, along with bars, restaurants and a variety of leisure facilities.

A lane linking Karmelicka and Dolnych Mlynow streets will also create a walking path through the centre of the complex, while the “sleeping” Kochanowskiego Street, currently closed off by a wall along the land plot, will begin functioning normally.

The commencement of work at the site has been a complicated endeavour and the project has stalled several times over the last decade. Court proceedings, protests from neighbours, delays in the issuing of a building permit and land ownership changes have all combined to hold up the development, initially set for completion in December 2002.

In 1998, the Krakow City Council sold the land to a private buyer for 48 million zloty, one of the largest transactions in Poland at the time according to local daily Dziennik Polski.

A year later, the land was sold off to Warsaw-based company Portico Galicja, which expanded the initial idea of building a multi-level car park at the site, and hired Krakow based architect Ronald Loegler to design a multifaceted concept.

However, due to complications in receiving a building permit for the site, Portico was forced to delay construction until mid-2003.

With a building permit issued and work poised to start in June of the same year, neighbouring property owners stepped in and filed a case to the Provincial Administrative court in Krakow, opposing the scheme and successfully bidding to annul the building permit.

The legal drama grew as Portico lodged an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw, which then overturned the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court, and once again paved the way for construction to begin.

Thus, at the start of 2007, with full building rights secured, it seemed the bureaucratic rollercoaster had come to an end. Yet, seemingly tired of constant postponements, Portico decided to sell the full rights for the land to Irish property developer Howard Holdings.

Now, the Cork-based company has used its Polish trademark Howard Property Polska to finally get construction underway and begin developing what will undoubtedly be one of the most modern complexes in Krakow.

While traditionalists have expressed concern that the new site will be wedged incongruously amongst the historic Carmelite Church and solid 20th century buildings on Karmelicka Street, the development is a further example of the modernisation of the district just north of the Planty.

It will also complement plans to develop a multimedia information centre opposite the Provincial Public Library on nearby Rajska Street, which will include a theatre, concert hall and seminar room for up to 400 people.

In recent years, a wave of modern shops, cafes and bars have also sprouted in and around the Karmelicka area, making it one of the most crowded in the city and breathing new life into what is generally seen as a walking path on route towards the Market Square.

With archeological works at the multifunctional complex site now finished, and a completion date set for mid-2010, it seems that local residents will have to get used to the emerging modern flavour of this part of town. with bars, restaurants and a variety of leisure facilities.

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