New attempt: IM studies private underground parking initiative

Any project for underground parking in Montevideo remains as hard a nut to crack for the departmental administrations as the stone on which the machinery would have to make its way underground. Except for one that is still standing, all of Daniel Martínez’s promising announcements in this regard were frustrated due to their difficult realization, the last of them canceled by Carolina Cosse’s management.

Nevertheless, the current administration is now enthusiastic about a private initiative presented by a construction consortium for the vicinity of Plaza de la Bandera, on Tres Cruces. The proposal – which gives the private sector an advantage in the event of a public tender being called – reached the municipal palace during this period, and is being studied by the Investment Commission chaired by the former Undersecretary of Economy, Pablo Ferreri.

The technicians in charge of studying the initiative differentiate it from the tender canceled by Cosse in mid-August for an underground car park along Luis Morquio Avenue, which connects the obelisk with the Ricaldoni fountain, in the heart of Parque Batlle. That project, which had been promoted by the Martínez administration, involved an investment of US$4 million and a 30-year concession to consolidate up to 450 parking spaces below the wooded area near the Centennial Stadium.

The IM had attributed the decision to cancel the tender to “looking towards 2030” – the centenary of the first world cup for which Uruguay has applied to host the final – given that une of FIFA’s requirements for World Cup stadiums is that there be at least 5,000 parking spaces in the surrounding area, so that “the tender that remained open was manifestly inconvenient.” The commune is even working together with the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) to create a “master plan” for the iconic Parque Batlle field.

Plaza de la Bandera, above Tres Cruces

During his appearance last week before the Legislation Commission of the Departmental Board, the coordinator of the Investment Office of the departmental government, Isabella Antonaccio, attributed the cancellation directly to the fact that “there were higher costs than benefits”. “Although (Parque Batlle) is an area that needs parking, the 300 spaces offered did not generate a great solution if we thought about the large number of costs that we were going to have to assume,” he told the councilors, according to the act to which he agreed The Observer.

Antonaccio maintained that the work involved intervening in a green space “of great heritage value” – the specifications spoke of digging a minimum of one and a half meters below the surface to guarantee that the trees would continue standing – while it was going to obstruct the area for a long period of time. All of this led to the Investment Commission recommending that Cosse not be awarded the project, initially prepared by the firm Beneficium SRL.

“Precisely, during the past year a series of initiatives were received regarding the area -not exactly in Parque Batlle, where the work was going to complicate the issue rather than resolve it- that did not imply so many costs. There is an underground parking project in which Plaza de la Bandera is involved. Then there are other types of projects in the area of ​​Tres Cruces”Antonaccio specified.

“We saw that in the private sector there was interest in developing initiatives similar to this parking lot (in Parque Batlle) that involved even more spaces. In other words, they would indeed represent a greater benefit in terms of the parking problem in the area (…) Having so many costs and being aware of similar opportunities that resolved this situation even better, it seemed appropriate to us to go this other way and reject that tender,” said the official.

New attempt: IM studies private underground parking initiative

Plaza de la Bandera, above Tres Cruces

In the commune they handle the issue with reservation, as it is a private project that has not yet gone beyond an expression of interest. Nevertheless, the tone of the current managers marks a difference with respect to the position adopted ten years ago by the administration of Ana Olivera to demolish an initiative of this nature in that same place.

“The information that the administration has is that it is very expensive”affirmed at the end of 2012 the then general secretary of the IM, Ricardo Prato, now deceased. “There is no interest of any private person in taking charge of that parking lot. Therefore, the installation of a museum and something else in sight is chosen, and not the parking lot, which implies digging two levels, which puts the project well above the expected costs”, he said at a press conference, in a context in which the mall committed up to US$ 800,000 in the framework of an ideas contest generated months before.

From the IM they avoid leaking more details, although the operators in the area are enthusiastic about any proposal that can give a little air to the streets saturated with cars. At the moment, the only initiative of this type that is standing, which comes from the Martínez administration, is at the intersection of Eduardo Víctor Haedo and Fernández Crespo, where the walls of the Stiller construction company and the commune’s posters announce a new space public and underground parking.

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