Prague’s Old Town Market renovation put on hold due to cost

The restoration of the market into a culinary and cultural center had been in the planning phases for five years.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 14.01.2021 15:41 (updated on 14.01.2021)

The renovation of Prague’s Old Town Market has been postponed indefinitely. Most of the members of the Prague City Council rejected the renovation proposal due to the city’s current financial situation and the uncertain future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The historical building on Rytířská Street near Old Town Square has fallen into disrepair due to decades of neglect.

The city has seen a large drop in income due to the pandemic, and as a result has to prioritize projects that will receive city support. Many long-planned projects will now have to wait for better times.

Prague's Old Town  Market. (photo: Raymond Johnston)
Prague's Old Town Market. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

Prague Deputy Mayor Pavel Vyhnánek (Praha sobě), responsible for budget, said the CZK 430 million investment is too costly to be currently justified. City coalition members in the Praha sobě and the Pirates agreed.

City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague) was one of the supporters of the renovation.

He now plans to push for partial repairs that would allow the market to be put back into operation for a minimal amount of money.

“I will try to prepare in the shortest possible time a minor renovation and reopening of the market in the state in which it is today,” Chabr said, according to daily Pražský deník.

“It will be a maintenance adjustment that would also reopen the beautiful elements of the building by removing the ceilings. If all goes well, the market could serve the people of Prague again at the end of the year,” he added.

Chabr also defended the price of the contract for the overall reconstruction, which has risen over the original estimates. It was originally almost CZK 100 million but experts from the Czech Technical University (ČTUV) stated that the bid price was in line with the location.

Current state of the interior of Old Twon Market (photo: CAMP)
Current state of the interior of Old Twon Market (photo: CAMP)

The city had been preparing for the renovation of the Old Town Market for the last five years or so. The last store in the building closed in 2019.

The renovations would have returned the interior to its original look and created a large open interior space. Food stands, restaurants, bistros, and cultural spaces were planned.

The neo-Renaissance style Old Town Market (Staroměstska tržnice), designed by architect was Jindřich Fialka, was built between 1894 and ’96. It has a cast iron structure and glass ceiling, with mosaics and other decorative elements visible inside.

Plaque featuring Alois Senefelder. (photo: Raymond Johnston)
Plaque featuring Alois Senefelder. (photo: Raymond Johnston)

The market has a link to history. A plaque on the entrance says the market is on the site of the birthplace of Alois Senefelder, born in 1771. He was an actor, writer, and lawyer who invented lithography as a way to save on printing costs.

The Old Town Market is a separate project from the planned Time Out Market that will open in the Savarin Palace complex, also currently under renovation next to Wenceslas Square. There are also plans to revitalize the Prague Market (Pražská tržnice) in Holešovice.