By Humphrey Carter
PALMA City Council and the Balearic government revealed yesterday that their favoured location for the new conference and congress centre is in the site of the GESA building on Palma's sea front. The construction of the new conference centre is one of the primary concerns of the new government which believes it is crucial to the further development of Balearic tourism and business. Palma City Development Councillor, Javier Rodrigo de Santos, said yesterday that the GESA site is ideal for the 22.000 square-metre project and also means that the re-development of Palma's sea front can go ahead as planned, leaving the Levante Industrial estate area for purely residential use. What was not made clear yesterday though was whether the centre would be built in existing waste ground or the project would include the demolition of the GESA building. De Santos added that such a prime location would help guarantee the success of the new convention centre, however he added that a few other sites, including the Moll Vell (Old Port) are still in with a chance as more than adequate alternative sites. But what is clear, is that the authorities want to push ahead with a sea front location.
De Santos added that the site will enable the convention centre to make maximum use of being close to the sea and the city centre as well as the old part of Palma. Before any final decision, Palma city council intends to hold a public debate on the project which, it is hoped, should be held within the next three months. A consortium is currently being set up to carry out a full viability and impact study of the GESA site as the home for the convention centre and examine the alternatives. Accompanied by Tourism Minister Juan Flaquer and Deputy Mayor of Palma, Francisca Bennássar, De Santos explained that the city council would however, not be able to afford to purchase the GESA site land and the convention hall would have to be included in the Palma sea front renovation plan in order to cover costs. Initially, the Levante Industrial Estate was thought to have been the ideal site, but with the first phase of the proposed convention centre covering an area of 11.000 square metres, the residential area has been ruled out for being too restricted. The city councillor said that once completed, it is envisaged the complex will cover twice the size.
Whichever site is finally chosen, the project will be funded by Palma City Council and the local government “that way the management remains in our hands,” Joan Flaquer said. The Tourism Minister said that the impact and viability study group will also be looking at conference centres around Spain and Europe and that the contract will be put up for international tender with around ten leading international architects invited to bid for the contract. De Santos said that it is hoped, work on the basic project will start at the beginning of 2005. “We're not going to build any old building,” Flaquer added. “We want to construct a large convention centre which will be an emblematic building for Palma and the Balearics and provide all the necessary facilities and services compatible with those anywhere in the world. “Otherwise it is not going to help off-season tourism and business,” he said.
Bennássar added that the city council and the government will be working together to promote the centre.

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