LA MARINA seems to have a little of everything that an expatriate could wish for.
Beautiful, unspoilt Blue Flag beaches, rolling sand dunes, an airport less than half an hour away plus major shopping in both Elche and Alicante, pubs, supermarkets, weekly market, great weather, good water sports, four golf courses, a sports complex and lots of little, intimate cafes to enjoy traditional Spanish tapas or a refreshing libation.
But apart from the great weather and beaches, maybe not all is perfect in paradise?
Darren James is a local radio broadcaster in Torrevieja, having lived more than half his adult years in La Marina.
He took me on a tour around yet another new commercial construction area in La Marina, located just off the N332, and the question that begs to be asked, but there does not seem to be a straight answer for, is “Why is yet another new commercial zone being built when so many empty units already exist?”
La Marina is somewhat strange in layout, split into a number of different districts and ruled over by the tiny Municipality of San Fulgencio.
At the last count it had 12,030 inhabitants (INE 2009 ) and of these, 75.9 per cent are foreign, which represents the highest percentage of foreign residents throughout Spain and one of the largest in the EU, per capita.
On the one hand, local municipal government is based in San Fulgencio, there is the lovely quaint La Marina Village on the Coast, the Oasis zone, made up of mainly International residents and the new commercial zone beside the N332.
It is the only Spanish city where English is the language spoken by the majority population, because more than half of its population is of British origin.
Construction on this commercial zone started around 2005 and consists of not only the almost empty San Fulgencio Commercial Centre but more than half a dozen others.
As Darren points out, “I walk around this area almost every morning and over the past six months I have watched yet another new building being constructed, which apparently will house a McDonalds and a KFC.
However, as I look around me, all these other zones are empty and locals seem to be closing every week, so I just wonder why La Marina is building yet another commercial centre?”
The evidence is plain to see.
A 20-minute stroll around the area and a quick calculation would give any prospective business a choice of more than 100 units to pick and choose from as ‘For Sale’ and ‘For Rent’ signs abound. And while construction on another building continues, less than 20 per cent of the completed commercial zones are occupied.
“What I don’t understand is the concept that two fast food franchises will be an attraction to bring visitors to the area.
Local children are at school all day, the majority of the population is over 50 and unlikely to visit on a regular basis, and apart from typical holiday periods, when are they ever going to be busy?,” he said.
One commercial centre in Alicante, which offers an Ozone Centre, Cinema, KFC, Burger King and other amenities, is also half empty, event though the major electronic and building supply anchor stores could not be busier.
In this time of crisis, it’s unlikely that San Fulgencio Town Hall would have the available revenue to purchase any commercial centre and turn it around to make the area more attractive to residents and visitors, or even have the desire to do so.
Local shoppers just looked on in bemusement as they watched the new building going up. A few shrugged shoulders.
Nobody seemed impressed with the thought of two new fast food restaurants. The builders did not have any thoughts on the subject.
Local resident Bill said “Maybe turning one area into an arts and crafts area, a local zone for La Marina’s youth, an Amusement area, might help, but I have my doubts that this will help any either!”
Darren continues to enjoy his morning walk around the commercial zone, enjoying the ambiance, weather and finishing up with a well earned ‘café con leche’ as his reward for loosing 15 kilos over the last five months of walking.
However, he remains mystified as to why even more construction is taking place.
“Fingers crossed it will be a great success and help to revitalise the entire area. That’s all I hope for, but, only time will tell!”
By Keith Nicol