Gran Vía de Colón: The building of a modern street in the historic centre of Granada.
Gran Vía is currently an exceptional catalogue of Granada architecture from the first third of the 20th century. In addition it is also the main route through the historic centre. Walking down it today is a wonderful experience that adds to the other historic areas of the city.
Gran Vía de Colón, is a street that now-a-days offers up an exceptional bourgeois Granada architectural heritage. Since the inauguration of the Train Station Andaluces in 1874, the logical increase in the movement of people and goods started to require the creation of a quick and direct transport link between this point and the centre of Granada. At first, this traffic circulation role had to be provided by Calle Elvira, which, turned out to be clearly incapable of allowing a fluid flow of traffic on it.
The establishing of ten sugar factories dedicated to the production of beet sugar started to produce continuous movement activity which made it of urgent importance to one way or another implement an urban planning project that would adequately improve transport in the city. The impetus to get the initiative off the ground did not come from Granada’s municipal government, but rather from an eminent Granada resident that knew how private initiatives worked and who embodied the new spirit of bourgeois progress. His name, Juan López-Rubio Pérez, the creator of the first beet sugar factory in the Vega.
Juan López-Rubio, then President of the Granada Chamber of Commerce and Industry, proposed an initiative conceived as a business, but also as a wealth generating project for the city. It was the construction of a new street, a major road or –gran vía– that, similar to those created in other European cities following the model of the Parisian avenues and boulevards of the 2nd French Empire, promoted improvements in transit, hygiene and public decoration, while creating new jobs in the city.
The Gran Vía project implied a radical change as far as the urban planning practices which had been applied in Granada in the previous decades. It was not about promoting an urban stretch of road through a new operation of extending a street, widening it and making the previously existing one more uniform; but rather opening up a new one, breaking the historic routing through a major operation of expropriation and demolition of houses and other buildings.
The new street was to be called Gran Vía de Colón and was to be inaugurated in 1892, coinciding with the four-hundred year anniversary of the conquest of Granada and the Discovery of the Americas.
This was to be a 20-metre wide street. The architect Modesto Cendoya was mandated to draw up the project for the new street. However, it took two more years for the Gran Vía de Colón project to be declared in the public interest and receive the necessary government approval. From then on, the festivities for the Fourth Centenary had already come and gone, but what is important is that, despite the delays, the municipal government then was ready to proceed with the construction work needed to build Gran Vía.
There was no opposition to the project at that time or in the many years needed to carry it out, at least, no one dared to publicly protest amidst the general opinion that the works were the symbol of progress the city aspired to. It was not until the project was quite far along and close to being finished that the first opposition was heard (from Angel Ganivet, Federico García Lorca and Leopoldo Torres Balbás among others), who lamented the disappearance of the old Granada before a street now marked as a vulgar copy of urban planning and architecture brought in from elsewhere. A critique than finished by dividing Granada residents for a long time and that has only recently been overcome due to the importance of the heritage of the triumphant bourgeois who wanted to show signs of progress using Gran Vía as the medium.
This street is a part of the route for our Granada Must-Do Tour