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Arenales del Sol gets rid of its hotel in ruins after 25 years of litigation


The shovel of a backhoe gnaws this Tuesday with force the columns of the top floors of what was once the hotel in Arenales del Sol, a coastal district of Elche (Alicante). For three weeks, demolition crews will put an end to the remains of an establishment that closed 40 years ago, which has dragged its agony since 1997 in the judged and that a year and four months later it abides by a resolution of the General Directorate of Coasts and begins to disappear. The history of Arenales and its close to 4. 000 neighbors, half registered, enters a new phase. In Spain there are numerous buildings that escape the demolition sentences – the best known is El Algarrobico, the illegal mass that has been 15 for years on a beach in Almería-, but in the case from Elche the end has been different.

For the mayor of Elche, the socialist Carlos González, the demolition constitutes a “historic event”: “Today begins the end point of a long conflict that has been very complex to resolve.” After closing at the end of the years 70, just 15 years after its inauguration in 1963, the Arenales hotel became a stone in the shoe of all the governments that have passed through the Elche City Council. A stone, yes, of an enormous size that, as time passed, not only became an outdated structure “that damaged the image and appearance of the Arenales district,” according to the mayor, but also threatened the neighbors due to the danger of falling rubble and the accumulation of sea water in their basement barely surrounded by masonry fences, an invitation for rats and mosquitoes.

The ruins of the hotel created by the businessman Tomás Durá and his wife, Maruja Sabater, literally and figuratively overshadowed the coastline of the Elche district. Its location, in the middle of the dune beach with difficult accessibility and very close to the Alicante-Elche Miguel Hernández airport, made it a jewel for late-Franco high society, but after its closure, it was nothing more than a hindrance. In 1997, the municipality of Elche took the first steps to carry out its demolition, with the declaration of ruin for the tourist establishment. It was a decision that would lead to what González defines as “a long administrative and judicial battle.”

The company that owns the building’s skeleton, Princesol, obtained a license to rehabilitate the old structure — each time more degraded – but instead tried to build a new one without municipal permits to try to extend the life of the hotel. However, the setbacks in the courts accumulated. In 2018, he requests the demolition of the original remains because he understands that there is a serious danger of the building collapsing. Costas accepts and imposes its conditions in a trial that reaches the Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community. But in December of 2019 the final lace of the “mamotreto” arrives, as the neighbors call it. The Supreme Court dictates that the new work is also irregular and must disappear. Costas signs the total demolition in June of last year. But the demolition does not begin until this Tuesday.

The demolition is the second phase of a plan that, first, focused on removing “a thousand kilos of asbestos” from the hotel ruins. “It was hard and meticulous work,” says González, “which was shown to be compatible with the summer and the dynamics of Arenales beach” and which has not interfered with the vacations of neighbors, seasonal residents and tourists, in his opinion. The harmful material “has been sent to a Cuenca landfill”, specialized in hazardous industrial waste.

The work now opens the progressive dismantling, “step by step”, according to the mayor, of the remains still standing and will last three weeks. González anticipates that, later, they will proceed to “the removal of the debris produced by the demolition”, which will also cost “between three and four weeks of work.” Finally, and under the criteria of the Coastal Law, “the regeneration and renaturation of the beach” will be affected. “Next summer”, González says, “visitors and neighbors will enjoy Arenales beach without the structure that so ugly the environment and that has generated so much inconvenience.”

The neighbors trust that the The disappearance of the tourist skeleton stranded on its coast breathes life into a district without a shopping center, without a school and with only one clinic. In fact, the president of the neighborhood association, Fernando Durá, has always insisted on the need to replace the hotel that gave life to a remote coast with another that revitalizes the area. At the moment, the municipality of Elche is executing a plan for the district to “improve public spaces and services”, it has built a large-capacity drinking water tank, negotiates with the Provincial Council for the construction of a socio-cultural center and has auctioned “a plot for tertiary use, which has been bought by an investor, so that a shopping center can be installed, ”says González.