Friday, April 11, 2014

A Boulevard Runs Through It: Playa de Muro

Playa de Muro is an odd resort. It grew out of virtually nothing, having been the meeting-point for sea and wetlands, separated by reeds, scrub and dunes and a road that connected Alcúdia with Can Picafort which crossed the bridge over Albufera's Grand Canal, a lasting legacy of the British engineers of the nineteenth century. The project to develop a "city of lakes" for Alcúdia also took in Playa de Muro, which got its own lake from the ancient Albufera wetland. This lake and its surrounding area, known as Las Gaviotas, established a development slightly inland. Otherwise, when the resort was being conceived, it was constrained by that meeting of sea and wetlands. The Esperanza hotel was the first, its name taken from a member of the Luna family which possessed most of the land to the east of what became Alcúdia's Mile. Other hotels appeared along the strip of former coastal scrub and dunes, the original topography which is still evident in parts.

The natural constraint of Albufera did not hinder the development of the tourism centre in Alcúdia. Reclaiming of the wetland there, a process which used ash from the old power station, meant what appeared from the end of the 1960s - a residential and tourism area that was totally man-made. The city of lakes stopped at Las Gaviotas, meaning that Playa de Muro would forever be a resort that was essentially a road with beach and sea to one side and parallel development to the other side of the road, limited by the marshes.

A consequence of all this was that Playa de Muro never had and still doesn't have a "frontline". The sea side of the road is a row of residential and hotel mix. There is no promenade, other than the beach. There is also no obvious centre to the resort; no focal point. It was a resort built for function, a less than glamorous planning philosophy reflected in its being classified by sector - Sectors 1 and 2; it was Tourist Resort New Town, created for purpose with scant regard for an inner soul.

Yet, what one has is a glamorous resort insofar as Playa de Muro is home to a hotel stock that is superior to that of its neighbours Alcúdia and Can Picafort. Despite this glamour, there remains the matter of the lack of a focal point.

In Magalluf we know that there is to be a new boulevard, one to beautify part of the resort. Boulevards are now in vogue. Playa de Muro wants one as well. Muro's mayor, Martí Fornes, has met with the tourism ministry and local hoteliers and has pitched the idea for the creation of a boulevard; a pedestrianised area that might give the resort what it so obviously lacks. The scheme envisages a boulevard of gardens, children's play areas and what have you that would run from the roundabout with the fish-hook sculpture to the Esperanza, i.e. just before the English bridge, which forms the boundary between Sectors 1 and 2. The cost? Between four and five million euros. The town hall wants the government to pay for it.

The boulevard would use one of the side roads that run alongside the carretera. The idea has some merit, but there is a further issue, other than finance, which might complicate matters. There is the separate scheme for the cycle route that is to go along the bay from Alcúdia to Can Picafort. Muro town hall has responsibility to design that part of the route which passes through its territory. If it is to be a proper cycle route, then could a boulevard be accommodated as well? One comes back to the constraints that determined how the resort was developed in the first place. There simply isn't the space. Were there two continuous side roads to both sides of the carretera, then there might be, but there aren't.

What chances are there, in any event, of finance being forthcoming from the government? There has been uncertainty surrounding the far less ambitious semi-pedestrianisation scheme for Puerto Pollensa because of the inability of the tourism ministry to part with cash. It now seems as though it will, but the amount is considerably less - 600,000 euros. If Playa de Muro is to get its boulevard, one fancies that the town hall will also need to show the colour of its money as will the hoteliers.

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