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New bank tower to cause traffic nightmares

Traffic jams the likes of which Bratislava has never seen may start forming when the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS) opens its 34-floor headquarters in just over two years at the corner of Mýtná ulica and Starohorskaáulica - ironically right in front of the Ministry of Transportation.
The specter of city streets backed up like a check-out queue at Tesco raises questions of whether Bratislava's infrastructure can keep up with the pace of downtown office construction.
More than 1,000 employees, who are now spread out at 10 different locations around the city, are expected to start commuting to the NBS tower daily in September 1999.

Traffic jams the likes of which Bratislava has never seen may start forming when the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS) opens its 34-floor headquarters in just over two years at the corner of Mýtná ulica and Starohorskaáulica - ironically right in front of the Ministry of Transportation.

The specter of city streets backed up like a check-out queue at Tesco raises questions of whether Bratislava's infrastructure can keep up with the pace of downtown office construction.

More than 1,000 employees, who are now spread out at 10 different locations around the city, are expected to start commuting to the NBS tower daily in September 1999.

While the building's plan calls for about 400 underground parking spaces, local authorities differ on whether the surrounding streets will be ready to handle such an inflow of traffic. "The need for improved infrastructure is very real," said the architect of the NBS building, Pavol Paňák. "There is nothing there now."

But little more is likely in the near future. "We don't have any specific projects to improve transportation in that area," said Milan Vajda, the spokesman for Mayor Peter Kresánek. Starohorská ulica is just beyond the city zoning line limiting tall buildings. In other words, the NBS tower will be as close to this forbidden zone as possible without being in it.

Maybe the NBS building will bring a sense of urgency to boosting transportation in and out of a neighborhood already occupied by several major institutions. Standing on the other three corners of the intersection where ground construction on the central bank's new headquarters started last November are Slovak Radio, the Technical University, and the Ministry of Transportation, Post, and Telecommunications.

City Hall expects to sell more of its property to investors looking to develop major projects in the future. "Maybe it is short-sighted with regards to transportation infrastructure," Vajda said, "but I do not think we can afford to stop selling the land we still have as long as we see the demand."

Just how much demand there is to develop more large projects remains unclear. Paňák said he is "sure" more tall buildings will go up in downtown Bratislava, because of the value vertical development can add to a finite area of land. But as Peter Beňuška, a former chief city architect, said, "It depends on investors. VÚB and the NBS are perhaps the two strongest local investors, so it makes sense that they would have the two tallest buildings."

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