For those of you who might have been away or not able to get to Valencia recently you may not have seen the changes that have happened recently. Projects such as the increasing number of bike lanes, the pedestrianisation of the town hall square, the new building projects on the edge of the city, the revamped Plaza Redonda and even the roof on the Levante football stadium… things are changing.
However, the renewal of the city and the reimagining of the city to make it more liveable is a constant process. We have been here since late in the last century and things that seem like they have always been there didn’t exist just twenty years ago; for example the Avenida de las Cortes Valencianas as you come in from the CV35 are all buildings put up between 2000-2010 and are soon to be joined by the Ikon tower, see our post here, the tallest building in the city of Valencia. It’s hard to believe they weren’t there when we arrived. Nevertheless, people who visit after a few years away generally say… “wow! Valencia’s changed!”
The reasons for the changes lie in the different direction of local politics, recognition of the needs of people living in the city and also a necessary yet possibly too late reaction to climate change. Let’s look at these in turn.
Valencia has become a progressive city after the long period of grifting, corruption and blatant stealing of the previous PP administration. For years, projects like the Central Park, extension of bike lanes, the changes to the centre of the city and most evidently the City of Arts and Sciences depended on developers and builders giving backhanders to local politicians without thought to the needs of the population and most were mired in corruption (we are looking at you 20 years of inaction on the Central Park). When Rita Barbera the ex-mayoress was finally defeated in elections things changed radically (She then mysteriously died in a Madrid hotel when due to give evidence in a huge corruption case, hmmm)
For years the Cabanyal had been a project on hold as the PP government were determined to demolish a huge area to take Blasco Ibañez avenue down to the sea. The new government immediately pulled the demolition project and applied for EU funding to redevelop the area and rebuild what had been lost during the previous stasis. Bit by bit the Cabanyal is now developing nicely and becoming a part of the city where young families move to for the convenience of living in the city with the advantage of being right by the beach.
The first stage of the Central Park project was pushed forward and finished in two years giving Valencia a whole new green lung between Ruzafa and Malilla in the old railway sidings. Stage two and three may eventually make it even larger and more attractive but we are not holding our breath after the initial twenty years plus of waiting for stage one.
Plans were brought forward for the conversion of the unused Formula One track, at the end of the riverbed before arriving at the Mediterranean, to be converted into a residential park area with tall skyscrapers to give more green space and less build density. We will see whether this project moves forward now with the Covid pandemic.
Demands of the Local Population
Valencia already had a good network of bicycle lanes both in and out of the city but the local government decided to effectively make the city more of a pedestrianised and cycling paradise. The increase in bike lanes is huge and this has meant that the roads around the city centre now have dedicated bike lanes away from the traffic making cyclists and electric scooter riders safer. It has also reduced by half the number of cars coming into the central part of the city as drivers know that it is more difficult to get around and there are fewer parking spaces.
When you ally this to an excellent local transport provision through buses and metro and the Valenbici system to pick up a bike anywhere in the city at a really reasonable price then you start to see a move towards considering the needs of the people rather than the demands of cars in development. There are even steps towards more electric vehicles with parking places increasing for electric cars, with free parking available in many cases, at the same time as they are reduced for petrol and diesel cars.
Also, people were sick of the constant corruption and demanded that the new government got on with what they had promised. They had seen the success of the riverbed project, where Valencians demanded a park rather than a motorway and even paid for it through a local tax on the postal service and they wanted more areas for relaxation, meeting friends and for children to play and even more shade (As we will see below)
The Elephant in the Room
Climate change of course. The World is warming up and Valencia is already hot. Summer days of 34-35 degrees are now more common whereas we used to hover around the 32 degree mark. Much of the development of Valencia had been based on concrete and tarmac open squares with little shade and wider roads and that absorbed the heat making it feel even warmer.
The avenues in the city are often tree lined down the middle giving shade to both sides and cooling the ground temperature. In the summer in Valencia you walk on the shady side of the street and in the winter the sunny side. Trees help to give that shade and mean that pedestrians are less exposed to the direct heat of the sun. Over the years the extensions to the roads in and around Valencia hadn’t taken this into consideration, now a huge tree planting programme is part of every development in the city and the increase in the parks and pedestrian areas allows even more trees to be planted.
This increase in pedestrianisation has also led to less fumes in the city centre and its surroundings. You can now walk through the centre of the city without taking in huge doses of diesel fuel particles and other pollution. And that is without even mentioning the difference in noise levels now that there are so many fewer cars.
In the new parks and playgrounds there are shaded areas for both the children playing and the parents watching on. Trees have become an integral part of the city experience.
If you want to know more about how Valencia has changed over the years click on the images below. And if you want to look at our properties then follow the link here to our Valencia Properties. We always welcome your contacts too so drop us a line via whatsapp at the side of this page or by mail.