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The five projects we are watching

Although one of the big international rating agencies has just downgraded Budapest after cutting the country itself to junk, the Hungarian government is determined to upgrade the capital – at least from a property development point of view. In the next four years, several large-scale projects are to be realized in the capital. Plans include the full restoration of the Castle district, the construction of a new football stadium, establishing and building a public service university, and creating a museum quarter in the heart of Budapest. The projects require a total budget of about HUF 70 billion, to be funded partly from EU sources and partly from the central budget. Some of the projects are slated for delivery after 2014, when the current government’s term is up. Let’s just hope that this time, the ambitious plans will not fall foul of the politics.

Várkert bazaar

“Finding the right functions for the bazaar was the most difficult task.” Ferenc Zumbok, ministerial commissioner in charge of renovations of the Castle district

Designed by famous Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl and built between 1876 and 1879, the Várkert bazaar at the foot of the Castle Hill has been an eyesore for decades. The bazaar has a hectic history, and during the course of its existence, it has hosted artists’ studios, a historic portrait exhibition and, most recently, the Ifipark, an entertainment park for the youth of the 1960s, and the first of its kind in Budapest. The Ifipark was shut down in 1984, and the condition of the building complex has gone from bad to worse since. Today the World Monument Fund lists it among the world’s 100 most endangered building complexes.

As part of the long-term development strategy of the Castle district, the Várkert bazaar is about to get a major facelift. The project is part of the national program of the New Széchenyi Plan. The checklist includes the construction of an underground parking lot for 130 cars, restoration of the Royal gardens, and building an escalator to connect the banks of the Danube with the Palace. The area of the former Ifipark would accommodate “backpacker tourists” in beer tents and cheaper restaurants. The bazaar will also have cultural functions, with some 6,000 sqm of available space for exhibitions. Dedicated to the memory of the popular Ifipark, the complex will also host a museum to introduce the history of Hungarian rock music, the ministerial commissioner responsible for renovation of the Castle district said.

A feasibility study required for improving traffic conditions in the district and its surroundings must be completed by the end of February 2012, and the deadline set in the government decree for drawing up the 25-year development strategy of the quarter is May 31, 2012.

Cost: HUF 8.5 billion. The project is to be financed entirely from EU funds that have already been received.

Delivery date for Várkert bazaar: March 2014.

Ludovika Campus

“The Bárka Theater will remain in place, and the Museum of Natural Sciences will also remain open to visitors during construction.” Balázs Fürjes, government commissioner in charge of the Ludovika project

By as early as September 2013, the public administration faculty of the new National Public Service University, planned on the Orczy-kert in District 8, will open its doors. With the merger of the public administration faculty of the Corvin University, the Police College and the Miklós Zrínyi National Defense University, the newly created institution will have public administration, police and military faculties. The old Ludovika Akadémia, once serving as a military academy, currently houses the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Bárka Theater. In addition to the new university, a college campus, sports facilities and other service establishments will be built on the area. With the reorganization of the above-mentioned educational institutions, two valuable properties will be left vacant in District 12, and additional resources might be available if the National Asset Management Company can sell them.

Cost: approximately HUF 20 billion, partly from EU funds, partly from the central budget.

Delivery date: first phase could be completed by Sept 2013, second phase by Sept 2014, third phase by Sept 2015.

Fradi stadium

“Fradi is the treasure of the nation.” Balázs Fürjes, government commissioner in charge of the Fradi stadium project

The Hungarian state is currently in negotiations with Kevin McCabe, the Scottish businessman owner of the Fradi stadium who bought the facility in 2008. McCabe already has plans for a new stadium, but now wants to exit the project. According to estimates, McCabe has suffered some HUF 8-9 billion in losses up to date, which he hopes to get back from the state in some form. But the government commissioner in charge of the new stadium project has said that McCabe will have to face his losses, although “the state has to consider that he has already made steps for constructing the new stadium.” Talks are expected to come to an end in the coming weeks, and the construction of a new, state-of-the-art, 22,000-seat stadium can hopefully get the green light. According to the plans, the current building will be demolished and the new stadium will be built in the back corner of the plot, leaving a vacant spot right at the corner of Üllői út and Könyves Kálmán körút, which is the most valuable area of the land. This area can later be rented out for private businesses, the government commissioner said. In addition to hosting 30-50 football games a year, the state-owned facility will be rented for various other events, such as concerts, fairs and conferences.

Cost: approximately HUF 12 billion, from the central budget.

Delivery date: as early as fall of 2013 or 2014.

Museum quarter

“The new museum quarter will place Budapest among the Continent’s ten most important cities.” László Baán, government commissioner in charge of the project

A planned museum quarter could reposition Budapest on the cultural map of Europe, Museum of Fine Arts director László Baán, who is in charge of the project, said when announcing the project in October. It is estimated the quarter could be completed by late 2017. Baán said he would submit a detailed proposal to the cabinet by next summer and the HUF 20-30 billion project could begin in 2014. Plans include merging the collections of the National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts by February 29, 2012, according to a government resolution published on October 20. However, National Gallery director Ferenc Csák considers the merger hasty, professionally ill considered and harmful for both institutions.

Cost: approximately HUF 20-30 billion.

Delivery date: late 2007.

Extension of the Gödör

“The Gödör was a swear-word once but has now become a cult spot.” Balázs Fürjes, government commissioner in charge of the Gödör project.

The Gödör (also dubbed the “national pit”) is located in the heart of the city on and under Erzsébet tér. This is the area where the Socialist government dreamt of building a new National Theater in 1997  – and construction was halted by the first Orbán administration a year later. After a lengthy dispute between the city hall of Budapest and the government, a decision to build a cultural and conference center was made in 2000. In 2002, the city rented it out to its current operator and the Gödör klub has served as a cultural meeting point since. But there is ample underutilized area, the commissioner said, and the facility also has several construction defaults. The government plans to fix these, and to create a theater area, a restaurant and an event hall, but also wants to keep the current function of the Gödör. It is also dedicated to the undisturbed operation of the place during construction.

Cost: approximately HUF 1 – 1.5 billion. May be covered from EU funds, but no decision has been made.

Delivery date: as early as the second half of 2013.