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Eviction of community center under threat suspended after new offer from local council

Landlords consider €9.7m bid which would make building public and stop construction of luxury flats

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29 April 2021 03:01 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Barcelona city council has asked courts to put on hold the eviction of the Gimnàs Social Sant Pau community center, originally planned for Friday, while landlords study a €9.7 million offer to purchase the building.

As a result, on Thursday early afternoon, a local Barcelona court met the local administration's request and suspended the eviction in order to grant more time for negotiation. The judge did not set an alternative date. 

The Gimnàs Social Sant Pau cooperative is a low-budget gym that also provides the city's most vulnerable with a place to eat and shower in addition to a clean change of clothes. It is located in the Raval neighborhood, a historically low-income but increasingly gentrified area in the heart of the city.

Over 2,500 mainly homeless people have benefited from Gimnàs Social Sant Pau's services throughout the pandemic in the form of 55,000 showers and 40,000 meals. "Shutting down could be a lethal psychological blow for them," warns Santi González, one of the gym's workers.

  • "Public authorities can't pay more than what something is worth, because it's everybody's money"

    Jordi Martí · Barcelona local councilor

Encesa Viñas, the family that owns the building, wants to demolish it in order to build a luxury high-rise apartment building. After steering clear of an eviction in late January, April 30 was set as the deadline for an agreement between both parties that will not materialize, at least on this date.

In a press conference on Thursday, the city council announced it was revising up its offer to purchase the building from €9.5 to €9.7 million. However, Encesa Viñas has previously said it will not accept anything under €14 million.

"I understand that some people would like us to offer more money. But public authorities can't pay more than what something is worth, because it's everybody's money," said Jordi Martí, a Barcelona local councilor. 

With their future hanging by a thread and still inconclusive city hall-led negotiations, not only do members of the Gimnàs Social Sant Pau cooperative believe mayor Ada Colau—who has ties to anti-eviction group PAH from her years as a housing activist prior to entering politics—should become personally involved, but they are also prepared to take the council to court for reactivating the property owner's building permit.

Over 80 years serving the neighborhood

The Gimnàs Social Sant Pau has long served the people of the Raval, or what was once known as the 'Barri Xino', tracing its origins back to the Banys Populars bathhouse that opened on Ronda Sant Pau in 1940 right after the Spanish Civil War.

Home to the Catalan capital's first chlorinated swimming pool, many of the neighborhood's marginalized residents would bathe there for a peseta long before showers became widely available in homes. Once this was no longer the case, it became the site of Club Natació Montjuïc training sessions before being managed by the Escola Pia school.

In 1992, the 1,400 sqm complex became the Gimnàs Social Sant Pau, which was saved from bankruptcy in 2012 when workers turned it into the "sports and social transformation" cooperative they hope will be around for years to come.

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  • The Gimnàs Social Sant Pau community center in the Raval neighborhood (by ACN)

  • The Gimnàs Social Sant Pau community center in the Raval neighborhood (by ACN)

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