The Hotel Carlton is set for a massive face-lift, but city officials vow it will not hurt the nearby trees.
What can be seen of the hotel nowdays has been fronting the square since 1913. The current building was erected on top of a older and smaller hotel, which had stood there from 1846. The hotel's shining facade was allowed to deteriorate in the late '60s, while the core structure has been crumbling since then. But a bright future is now dawning on the hotel, because a serious reconstruction project is underway at the Hotel Carlton.
"I have been involved with the plans for Carlton's reconstruction for the last 22 years," said Vladimír Vršanký, the chief architect for the present reconstruction project. "During the last 22 years, there were at least 52 investors that were interested in the reconstruction," Vršanský said. "But the present investor is the only one that has actually started any kind of work on the hotel." The reconstruction work started on June 18 with the replacement of wooden support columns under the facade with iron ones.
The latest investor on the hotel reconstruction is Belgium-based Tractebel Engineering International, with a daughter company, Bratcarl, based in Bratislava. Bratcarl is in charge of the actual reconstruction.
Carlton's facade will be preserved for its historical interest, but the inside of the hotel will be demolished and replaced by new rooms and facilities that will raise the hotel to a higher standard. "We will preserve the old facade that people know and recognize, and which has made the hotel so famous. But inside there will be 166 rooms, plus an administrative space of 10,000 square meters and a congress center for 300 people. Small boutiques are to be placed within the hotel, just as there used to be small shops during the brightest chapters in the hotel's history," said Vršanský. A coffee shop will be erected outside the hotel. The original coffee shop, which stood on the site decades ago, was known as the place to be seen in Bratislava during the '30s, when the hotel was at the height of its fame.
The reconstruction is to cost about 1.5 billion Slovak crowns ($400 million). "The plans right now are that we will celebrate the new millennium in the hotel," said Vršanský. For Vršanský, whose version of the next millenium starts on December 31, 2000, his goal leaves about 2.5 years for the reconstruction.
The sticking point in the project is the 420 underground parking places that are planned. The Old Town city hall wants to preserve eleven platan trees at the square, and is refusing to allow Bratcarl to turn the square into a construction pit. "Without the underground parking, there will be no hotel," said Erik Vandezane, Bratcarl's official representative. But Old Town City Hall is adamant. "We set the rules that the trees must be at least seven meters away from the place where the digs will be done for the underground parking. We do not want to relax these requirements," said Peter Petrek, chief architect at Old Town City Hall. "Right now we are withholding permission on the underground parking. We want the square to look what it is supposed to look like. Like a promenade, because that is what it was in the past," said Petrek.