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Thursday, October 23, 2014 (read 456 times)
Historic Barcelona Shops May Soon Disappearby Tyson
If you’re considering exploring the unique charm of the old-time family-run stores that characterize Barcelona’s historic Gothic Quarter, you better go before the end of the year. That’s when countless businesses seemingly lost in time since their rental agreements were first fixed in the 1960’s will have to negotiate new rent contracts with building owners, at market price. Multi-national chain stores fully prepared to fork over 700% higher rent payments are already jockeying for position in coveted corners of this historic district loaded with attractions and crowds of pedestrians.
The crowds are attracted in part by the aged glory of fantastic window shopping opportunities set to soon fade into the engaging barrio’s intriguing past. It’s a place where mom and pop shops recall a bygone era of personalized service and originality far removed from the corporate world poised to devour this quarter that is ripe for the pickin’. Up to now, unlikely survivors in prime locations of a tourist destination that received 7.5 million visitors last year include Colmada Quílez, a small 70 year-old specialty grocery shop that would have to sell a lot of food items to cover the exorbitant rent hike it faces. “There’s nothing to do. They don’t want to negotiate”, said owner Carlos Lafuente who has also expressed concern for the store’s 15 employees.
Massive gothic monuments observe in silence as retail giants like Mango and Geox prepare to replace long-standing neighbors. Plans to build a shopping mall spell doom for Monge, a rare stamp shop, and Fargas Chocolatiers, which has delighted patrons with hand-made chocolate since it opened in 1827. Josep Maria Roig, owner of La Colmena Pastry shop has already signed a new 15 year contract with his building owner who was willing to cut a deal to allow the shop that’s been around since 1872 to stay alive. The owner received better offers but settled at €7,500 a month, up from €1,000. The footwear brand Geox will pay some €35,000 a month to rent space occupied by the family owned toy store Palacio del Juguete, which until now has also paid €1,000 a month.
Many residents have voiced their disapproval as they watch the timeless businesses get ousted from their unique community to make way for a disappointing bevy of big budget chain stores that will inevitably wash the local landscape with a bland layer of colorless homogeny.
The city of Barcelona for its part is reviewing 380 store buildings to determine if their historic value is worth offering them special protection. Officials are including businesses they deem worthy in a catalogue of artistic and historic heritage. Shop owners are needless to say anxious to know if their establishments will make the list, and if they’ll still have a business come January. It’s still not clear however where the money will come from to cover the compensation the city would likely have to pay building owners for the loss of rent.
The fixed rental agreements were extended back in 1994, setting the expiration date 20 years in the future, thinking that would allow plenty of time for the situation to get worked out. Today, just months before the end of the year, nothing seems worked out.
Meanwhile, it seems that now’s the time to savor old-school flavor and experience the nostalgia already settling in as an era of classic BCN businesses draws to a close.
Keywords: barcelona,barça,gothic quarter barcelona,barrio gotico,barrio gotico barcelona,city of barcelona