Case Study

Madrid Nuevo Norte: When Urban Transformation and Talent Go Hand-in-Hand

February 7, 2023


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Madrid Nuevo Norte is one of the most important urban regeneration projects being developed right now in the world. It is also a strategic project for the city and region of Madrid. In terms of scale, its vision of sustainable urban development and, above all, its capacity to transform the surrounding environment.

Perhaps better than any other project currently underway, this initiative focuses on innovation and attracting talent and investment, combined with cutting-edge sustainability measures, substantially improving citizens’ quality of life, and enabling Madrid to tackle the great challenges of the future from a more advantageous position.

This project harnesses all the potential of a major urban space, brownfields in the heart of the Spanish capital, a location that taps into the city’s biggest economic axis and offers outstanding public transport links. The total area encompassed is 2,364,825 m2. The buildable gross floor area earmarked for tertiary uses, i.e., for offices and commercial premises, is 1,608,778 m2, with residential development accounting for 1,048,535 m2.

Stretching over 5.5 km, the magnitude of this project is on a par with previous urban expansions that shaped the city of Madrid over the course of four centuries.

Chamartín station, at the heart of the project

The renovation of the Madrid-Chamartín-Clara Campoamor train station marked the inception of this project. The station will be fully redesigned and turned into Spain’s biggest high-speed rail hub.  

Located in the heart of the new Madrid Nuevo Norte Business District, it will have an express train service that takes just 15 minutes to reach Barajas Airport. Thanks to these unbeatable national and international transport links, the future Madrid Nuevo Norte business district will be one of the best communicated in Europe.

This initiative also encompasses one of the biggest projects to cover over railway tracks in the world, a major technological challenge that will link previously isolated neighbourhoods with the rest of the city.

A new city model focused on talent

Based on the belief that only cities that are truly ready to tackle the challenge of attracting talent will be successful, Madrid Nuevo Norte offers a genuine opportunity for Madrid to embrace a city model founded on promoting and developing the knowledge economy so that it can compete on the global stage.

Madrid Nuevo Norte is the ideal place to create a physical space —currently lacking in the city— where the most advanced and globally competitive economic activities can be developed and promoted. The location is unbeatable, at the conjunction between the city’s main sectors of activity and the major public transport hub —Chamartín train station and the Plaza de Castilla interchange— and close to the airport.

This centre of economic activity will include more than a million square metres of state-of-the-art office space, where training, exchange of knowledge, and the most advanced and value-creating economic activities will be developed.

In keeping with new lifestyles and priorities

To attract the best businesses and talent, it’s not enough just to create the best buildings and the most modern technological infrastructures. The classic Central Business District (CBD) model, which appeared in the 1970s and has been implemented until recently, is out of step with the modern age. Nowadays, the key to successfully attracting talent is to create attractive urban environments and vibrant cities where people can work, live, and enjoy life. So, the Madrid Nuevo Norte model takes new ways of living, working, shopping, travelling, and leisure - especially among the younger population - into account and integrates them into urban design. At the same time, it prioritises social and environmental sustainability.

New generations do not prioritise owning a house or a car, or the classic models of office work. Instead, they are open to soft and shared mobility, renting or co-living. They are familiar with teleworking and look for more flexible shared workspaces. And they demand a sustainable urban environment. Leisure and shopping habits have also changed, shifting largely to online shopping, which is a major challenge for last mile logistics.

Madrid’s response to this new scenario is the Madrid Nuevo Norte urban model.

Affordable housing is key in Madrid Nuevo Norte

One of the most significant challenges faced by cities is to ease the difficulty of accessing housing, mainly caused by high property prices.

People are increasingly looking for attractive and vibrant urban environments, where they can not only work but also enjoy culture, leisure and entertainment, parks, and nature.

So, Madrid Nuevo Norte has been designed based on a mixed-use city model with a wide range of affordable housing on offer, which is fundamental when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

38% of the 10,500 new homes being built in Madrid Nuevo Norte will be managed by Madrid City Council. This means that around 3,900 homes will be subject to some kind of public access formula: 2,500 will be affordable housing, while 1,300 will be market-rate but allocated to promoting public policies regarding access to housing.

Specifically, in the Business District area, the percentage of housing properties allocated to public policies will be 62%.

The 15-minute city and 45-minute region

The model used for Madrid Nuevo Norte is based on a dense and compact urban design with mixed uses, where residents’ everyday needs can be met within a radius of 15 minutes or less on foot.

This model meets the majority of residents’ needs in terms of education, healthcare, shopping, and leisure, with one drawback: it is not possible to create the best jobs for everyone within a radius of 15 minutes.  

Madrid Nuevo Norte will be the most important economic hub in the city, so in addition to daily mobility within the district, it is fundamental that millions of citizens, regardless of where they live, can access new jobs quickly, easily, and sustainably.  

For that reason, in addition to affordable housing, Madrid Nuevo Norte is committed to offering a hyper-connected public transport network, which will take close to two million commuters to and from the Madrid Nuevo Norte business district in under half an hour (3 million in 45 minutes, and up to 5 million in an hour).

Public transport in Madrid Nuevo Norte is not, therefore, just about sustainable mobility. It goes beyond that, seeking to break down physical and social barriers, allowing all residents of Madrid to access Madrid Nuevo Norte and the opportunities created there.

So, the concept of the 15-minute city has evolved to incorporate a 45-minute region where all citizens of Madrid can access the best jobs, facilitating connection on a global scale thanks to its location and links to the international airport.

This new city concept, based on economic activity, affordable housing, and accessible public transport, has also evolved, and moved beyond the traditional notion of the Central Business District, giving rise to a new concept that better defines the urban model of Madrid Nuevo Norte, paving the way for other Affordable, Mixed Districts in the future.

Driving the economy  

Madrid Nuevo Norte will have a significant impact on the regional and national economies. Activity around Madrid Nuevo Norte will create 350,000 jobs linked to the project, over more than two decades, and for all professional profiles, according to a recent study carried out by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. But its positive impact on the economy is not only limited to the city of Madrid; the project will also have an impact on the region and the country, adding EUR 15.2 billion to the national GDP. This activity will also generate more than EUR 4 billion in public revenue, as the sum total of the benefit obtained by the local, regional, and national administrations.

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