The New York of the Mediterranean is also a city that never sleeps. Benidorm in the Spanish province of Alicante is now ready to present its newest attraction: the largest residential skyscraper in Europe. The Intempo building is 198 meters high and houses 256 apartments – but it was a project that nearly ended in disaster due to the bursting of the Spanish real estate bubble in the early 2000s and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But now the two-tower structure crowned with a cone is about to be completed, and EL PAÍS is the first news agency to be invited to a tour of the building after the work has been completed.
Construction workers from Dragados, the company tasked with completing the project, are still directing traffic inside the building, where final cleaning continues, while potential buyers visit the show homes at the same time.
PHOTO GALLERY | Intempo, the tallest residential skyscraper in Europe (subtitles in Spanish)
The Intempo has 13,000 square feet of common space, including an 800 square foot pool on the ground floor. It takes about seven minutes to walk the 200 meters to nearby Poniente Beach from the building. There is another pool on the 46th floor and you can enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city from the sun loungers. The 47th floor is the highest point and houses common areas. There will be a cocktail bar up there, along with four hot tubs. The facility managers estimate that around 800 people will live in the building during high season and that a reservation will be required to access this floor at peak times such as June 23rd.
The most exclusive apartments are on the 45th floor. The two residences there have an area of 300 square meters and were sold for more than 2 million euros. The other options include 75-square-foot two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments and 95-square-foot options with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a separate kitchen.
All apartments have a balcony with a sea view, many also have a rear balcony with a view of the mountains. Prices started at 250,000 euros, but currently the cheapest option is a 95-square-meter apartment for 317,000 euros.
It took many years to get there. The fifth tallest skyscraper in Spain – only surpassed by Madrid’s Cuatro Torres office buildings – had to overcome several severe crises. The handover of the keys for the first purchased apartments is expected to take place in September, but so far only 40% of the units have been sold. “That’s a low percentage compared to expectations, but customers couldn’t travel here in 2020,” explains Jorge Romagosa, product manager at developer Uniq. However, he expects a good summer. “Now that it’s finished, the reception was fantastic,” he says.
The name Intempo evokes a certain resistance to the passage of time and, as such, could not have been chosen better. The skyscraper is a symbol of resistance in Benidorm. Just as the popular tourist destination is always visible when approaching the area by sea or land, its urban planning model has not left anyone indifferent for six decades now.
The city has nearly 80 skyscrapers over 25 floors, while 27 of the buildings exceed 100 meters. The result is one of the most famous skylines on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The architect Oscar Tusquets, who designed an exhibition on Benidorm that he took to London, is one of the greatest defenders. “Benidorm is the happy invention of a mayor with an unbelievable vision for the future,” he explains on the phone, referring to Pedro Zaragoza, who headed the local council from 1950 to 1967 and who made the city one of the tourist destinations that it still is today . “He saw that tourism had taken a different path and invented Benidorm together with a first-class urban planner. The bad thing was the imitators, ”he argues.
This “invention” began in 1956 with a city map that gave priority to high-rise buildings and, according to Tusquets, created the “most interesting modern Mediterranean city that represented the best solution for mass tourism”. Then why does Benidorm have a tarnished reputation? “A certain section of the political left doesn’t like working class people very much, and these guys from Manchester [in reference to English tourists] those who get drunk in Benidorm also cause them some discomfort. Nothing for me, I find it very entertaining, ”he says with a laugh.
Being as successful as Benidorm has been for six decades is no easy task, and building this newest skyscraper in the city was no stroll in the park either. Construction work began in 2006, and the main partners in the project were José Ignacio de la Serna, who died in 2015, and Isidro Bononat. Local businessmen got into an argument and their administration of the project ended up in courts which ruled that they were accountable to their creditors. The project had previously been sent to Spain’s “bad bank”, the Sareb, which had taken over a loan that had been granted by the now closed Sparkasse Caixa Galicia and whose repayment seemed unlikely.
“We were interested in a Galician lender making a loan of this size outside of their geographic area,” says a source from Sareb involved in the project. The Bad Bank, he emphasizes, cannot do anything – it has only received the debt, while the owner of the project is still with Olga Urbana, the original project sponsor. “They had issued 100% of the loan but only built 93%,” explains the same source.
With the upper part of the building still to be completed, there is not only a risk of Intempo falling into a huge financial hole, but also a “physical risk” if the structure deteriorates.
The Bad Bank tried to reach an agreement among the creditors so that a judge could appoint an administrator and provide the necessary liquidity to complete the construction. In 2017, the loan was sold to an investment fund called SVP Global for 108 million euros. Until the start of the sale of the apartments, she is the owner of 100% of the building, which she is converting and marketing with the support of Uniq.
The long story is now approaching a happy ending, the apartments are almost ready to move into. For now, there are more domestic than international buyers due to the travel restrictions of the pandemic. But Russians, French and Germans are also potential customers. From the top of the building you have to overcome any vertigo before you can look down and see the signature view of the beaches littered with umbrellas and lounge chairs. On the left, an excavator busy working on another hill reminds us that the real estate business never rests in this city of relaxation. Perhaps it is not too late for Tusquets, who half-jokingly says that at the age of 80 he is “frustrated not to have built a skyscraper in Benidorm”.
English version of Simon Hunter.