Long-abandoned Fábrica do Inglês could become five-star hotel as investors negotiate with CGD bank
Silves has been making headlines recently over the many massive projects that are in the pipeline in the borough. The Resident spoke with Silves mayoress Rosa Palma about the expansion of Zoomarine, the plans to build a five-star hotel and 18-hole golf course and the future of the Fábrica do Inglês complex, where another five-star hotel may soon be built. The importance of motorhomers to the local economy, the growth of the local wine sector and the town’s land clearance efforts to prepare for the fire season are among the other topics discussed.
The latest news involves the possibility of a five-star hotel being built inside Fábrica do Inglês, a long-abandoned cultural complex in the heart of the town which is still in the hands of Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos.
Rosa Palma told us that a “group of investors are involved in advanced negotiations” with CGD to take over the complex and implement a project that already has the green light from the council.
In a nutshell, the plan is to build the five-star hotel as well as apartments, a spa, pool, restaurant and a health service area inside Fábrica do Inglês.
Says the mayor, “this project guarantees the maintenance and reopening of the cork museum and allows free circulation inside the complex and public enjoyment of the existing square”.
“The council has been following this process up close and considers that it is an opportunity to revive Fábrica do Inglês by rehabilitating the cultural heritage, respecting its historical-architectural value, ensuring the reopening of the cork museum and welcoming the uses that the complex will be given which are compatible with its cultural nature.
“We believe this project will give Fábrica do Inglês back to the people of Silves and those who visit us, and increase the cultural offer of the town and municipality,” she added.
The mayor also spoke to us about the €50 million project to build a five-star hotel with 700 beds, an 18-hole golf course and a sports complex in Silves which she believes can help fight seasonal tourism, attract more holidaymakers and contribute towards the sustainable development of the borough (click here).
The other big project that is in store for Silves is the expansion of the Algarve’s popular theme park Zoomarine, which is looking to ‘double in size’ – and this means expanding into Silves’ territory.
The project has already received a favourable declaration of environmental impact from the CCDR and Silves had “partially suspended” its PDM municipal plan to make the expansion possible.
As Rosa Palma says, “Silves tries to attract, stimulate and support everyone who wants to carry out sustainable and important investments in the municipality”.
“We are talking about a company that is one of the most important employers of Silves, which has been investing in good practices and has tried to create strategies to protect the environment and promote environmental education,” she told us.
Given the “jobs and wealth” that the expansion could generate for Silves, the council decided “it was important to not get in the way of the project”.
However, the mayoress points out that no decision was made before hearing from CCDR Algarve and the Portuguese environmental agency (APA), which both gave the plans a ‘thumbs up’.
Apart from all this, Rosa Palma stressed that there are other “big investments planned across our municipality, from the mountains to the sea, which will surprise many people”.
“Thumbs down” for Praia Grande project
One investment that she hopes “never moves forward”, however, is the project to build a “mega development” at Praia Grande near Lagoa dos Salgados.
The mayoress has opposed the plans ever since they were announced, and her opinion hasn’t changed.
“We announced our disagreement with this project from the start,” she told us, explaining that proceedings are underway to get a court order to halt any kind of works.
“For Praia Grande, we do not want more of the same. We want something more in line with nature, the fauna and flora.”
However, Silves is not just concerned about the traditional hotel sector.
The municipality has also been hard at work to make motorhomers feel welcome, with two existing motorhome stations in Silves and São Bartolomeu de Messines and another in the pipeline for São Marcos da Serra.
As Rosa Palma says, “these tourists are important to the Algarve, and to Silves, as they spend money, contribute to the local economy and are good ambassadors for the region. We hope that they will continue visiting us for many years”.
Events for all
And while Silves may have an attractive combination of rural appeal and sunny beaches, the municipality realises that it has to give visitors another reason to spend time in the town.
Entertainment and festivities are crucial and in Silves no event is bigger than the Feira Medieval de Silves (medieval fair), which has become one of the Algarve’s biggest summer events.
This year, the fair will reveal a part of the town’s history that many “may not know about” – its relationship with Vikings who threatened the town in the ninth century. In a bid to broker peace, an “astute diplomat and poet” known as Al-Gazali left Silves and travelled to the north of Europe in the distant year of 844.
The details of this part of the town’s history will be explored during the course of the event.
Another successful initiative is Silves’ ‘Jazz nas Adegas’ which involves musical performances and wine tastings taking place inside wine cellars around the borough.
The project has helped increase the visibility of the municipality’s wines and has been an all-round success, with each session held last year being sold out.
Many other events are planned for this summer, which the council hopes will be held without the concern of possible wildfires, as happened last year.
Says Palma, the council is doing everything it can to prevent wildfires like the devastating one that broke out in Monchique last August and spread to Silves.
In fact, the mayoress says that Silves has been a “pioneer” in this regard by developing partnerships that “facilitate land clearance” as working together with other entities makes the work much easier and more effective.
The council has also been making sure property owners are aware of what they have to do while also taking matters into its own hands in areas considered “problematic”.
“All this made a difference last year and it continues to require tremendous effort from our teams, who tirelessly work to spread information and promote prevention.”
By MICHAEL BRUXO