FLORENCE, ITALY – Saying that the disastrous fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris served as a wake up call, officials in Florence have identified over 25 structures that pose a risk to safety, including the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
According to mayor Dario Nardella, many buildings are at risk. “A lot of these buildings were constructed in the twelfth and thirteenth century using outdated renaissance-era building materials and techniques,” stated the mayor, adding “building codes weren’t in place yet, so what we’re seeing is a high level of concern that these buildings are susceptible to fire or other events which could put the public in harms way”.
The city government has called for retrofits including seismic upgrades and sprinkler systems to be installed, but those come at great cost that many building owners will not be able to afford.
A representative for the Archdiocese of Florence stated “we’ve been informed that in order to continue to operate our cathedrals, we would be required to perform upgrades, and unfortunately, these are too cost prohibitive. As sad as it is to see them go, the best course of action at this time is to replace these aging structures with new, modern buildings”.
The Archdiocese has been working with real estate development firm Iniziativa Sviluppo on future plans for the site which include a small chapel, shopping center, a 20-story 350-room hotel, an underground car park, and a public plaza.
“We’re trying to have a glass-half-full outlook,” explained Mayor Nardella, adding “by replacing these old death-traps with modern glass and steel towers, we are being given a unique opportunity to shape Florence into an important commercial center. In a city as dense as we are, it’s difficult finding space for new hotel rooms and convention centers, so replacing these outdated buildings will really boost our economy”.
Some Florence residents have voiced concerns, including Vitoria Bianchi saying “these buildings add to the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Florence. What the government is doing is opening up a land grab for developers and this will lead to further gentrification of our city”.
Officials have pushed back against criticism, with a representative from the city telling BeetPress “our responsibility is the safety and security of visitors and residents of Florence. If there’s an earthquake or bad fire, people are going to die when these unreinforced masonry buildings crumble, so we need to be proactive. We must look to the future, not live in the past”.
In addition to the Duomo, other structures slated for demolition include the Basilicas of San Lorenzo and Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio, The Bargello, and Ponte Vecchio. Demolition is scheduled to begin in early May.