New Life for Doomed Almería Resort Project

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Eight years after courts ordered the demolition of a half-finished hotel development on the Almería coast, the controversial project lives on.

In 2006 the courts ruled the Hotel Algarrobico was illegally approved for pristine parkland. The hulking, white-washed project became a symbol for the wave of developments throughout Spain built without proper planning permission, often in areas supposedly off limits to development.

But last week an Andalusia regional court ruled that the project is legal, once again throwing the future of the site in doubt, El Pais reports.

“Expectations have been generated about the demolition of the hotel that are not supported by the law,” José Rodríguez, deputy director of Azata, the project’s Madrid-based developer, told the paper.

Azata has long argued that the project was approved before the hillside was set aside for parkland.

“When we bought the land we were told that it could be built on,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “We acted in good faith, believing that the local government was acting within the law. It is not acceptable for somebody else to come along later and say that the rules have changed.”

But the case is complicated. The ruling may only apply to parts of the hotel, while other areas of the project, including swimming pools, may still need to be demolished for violating laws restricting development in coastal zones, which were in place before construction started on the project.

Instead of finishing the Hotel Algarrobico, the developers may demand compensation from the government, based on the ruling.

“The idea now is that the parkland needs protecting more than when we were given building permits,” Mr. Rodríguez told the paper. “That’s fine, but the regional and national governments have to bear the financial costs involved.”

Mr. Rodríguez also acknowledged that the stark whitewashed façade of the development, which dramatically clashed with the undeveloped hillside, might have spurred attacks.

“The white really does clash with the landscape,” he said. “We wanted to color it ochre, but local rules prevailed.”

Mr. Rodriguez said the project is “not that big,” and only looks bigger due to the stark white façade.

But the development reminded the El Pais reporters of a “pyramid that could give Machu Picchu a run for its money.”

“The beach doesn’t so much bring to mind Lawrence of Arabia as the final scene of Planet of the Apes and Charlton Heston standing amid the last vestiges of Western civilization,” wrote Jerónimo Andreau and Manuel Planelles.

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About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based property market analyst and consultant, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008). He can be reached by email on ms@spanishpropertyinsight.com.