The Algarve city of Olhão de Restauração is about to have a riverside face-lift that will change the two parks at either end of the famous markets into tourist areas ‘par excellence,’ according to mayor António Pina.
The council’s plans were presented on Thursday evening to an open session that attracted around 100 locals.
The architect Amélia Santos from Arquitectura Paisagista, who does lots of work for the reviled Polis Litoral Ria Formosa company, showed her design for the new parks and a new one-way system along the Avenida 5 de Outubro with associated paving changes.
This presentation was a courtesy by the council as the project is going ahead anyway, to the horror of traditionalists and the concern of those who work at the markets selling fish, vegetables and meat, whose loading and unloading access they fear will be severely restricted.
The young mayor is to front a plan that will change Olhão’s character to one that he says people want, with a more tourist friendly and accessible space, all of which will “change the face of the city."
The two garden areas, Patrão Joaquim Lopes and Pescador Olhanense, are to be redesigned in a modern, linear fashion with a concentration on current mixed with traditional calçada paving in many areas.
The theme is said to be 'the Ria Formosa, the traditions of Olhão and the preservation of its memory,' however this design leaves little but memories as it is modern and similar to many others along the Algarve that are user-friendly but do away with the Portuguese feel of coastal fishing villages and towns in favour of 'tourism appeal' which can have the opposioite effect.
The architect has worked hard to eliminating architectural and visual barriers that currently exist and has created more leisure areas - spaces “for all the people of Olhão to enjoy.”
In Jardim Patrão Joaquim Lopes, to the east of the markets, the petrol station at the end of this park is to be shut down, the mayor cited surface pollution leaking into the Ria FormOsa (near the raw sewage outfall that he has yet to attend to), the existing cafe upgraded and the ticket office for the island ferries to be moved to a new, purpose-built home next to another cafe.
The austere monument to local hero, Patrão Joaquim Lopes, stays and becomes more of a focal point in the new design in which the architect says many of the existing mature trees will be preserved. Mayor Pina went one step further and said that no tree will be cut down in the new plan, which is hard to reconcile with the drawings as presented.
And so it goes on, there are reasons for each design aspect and there will be those vehemently opposed and those grateful that Olhão’s waterfront is being upgraded, ‘because that’s what tourists want.’
When the council backed down on its plans for the modernisation of the historic centre of the city, the gardens project first was floated and caused concern to locals whose fond memories of playing in the park built in the late ‘50s, led them to mutterings of revolt if it was messed around with.
Cities always are evolving and the current plan certainly is an evolution. The city centre remaining intact and un-modernised was a victory for common sense and an appreciation that locals and foreigners do sometimes have valid views based on experience, but quite how this new jolt will go down with locals, remains to be seen.
The architectural project now goes to Polis, which will be responsible for its implementation and for picking up the lion's share of the bill.
A public tender is expected to be launched in the second half of this year, with works expected to start at the end of October, after the summer season. The mayor earlier had hinted at a start date of March but this will not happen.
The cost of the work is budgeted at around €1.5 million - €900,000 payable by Polis and €600,000 by Olhão’s ratepayers.
Have a look at this run through of the new plan on YouTube and please feel encouraged to leave a comment: https://youtu.be/EFg2Xbv3QEc