Over the last two decades the relationship which ports traditionally maintained with the surrounding urban area has rapidly evolved and undergone a considerable transformation. With the increasing commercial activity, both industrial and logistical, the change in the attitude amongst inhabitants of surrounding areas who place increasing importance on environmental standards and finally, legislative changes introduced by central and local government, have lead many ports to seriously revise their relationship with the cities in which they are situated.
The Port of Castellón was one of these ports which adopted this new approach in the middle nineties. Rather than exist with its back to the town, it was decided to remove the wall which for so long had divided the port from the town, and convert the area closest to the town into an area of recreation and leisure activities open to the public. A seafront area was created both for residents and visitors, which, as the number and variety of the attractions has increased, has become one of the principle centres for tourism in Castellón.
The initiative for this complete conversión of an important area of the port came entirely from PortCastelló, in contrast to many other Spanish ports where the urban development of the the seafront area was brought about by various institutions.
The ‘Plaza del Mar’, situated between the ‘Moll de Costa’ (Coast Quay), the Castellón Yacht Club and the Fishing Harbour, was inaugurated in the summer of 1995 and became the starting point for the process that would permanently transform the interior part of the inner basin of the port. With a surface area of 15.000 square metres, there are now more than a dozen shops, cafes and restaurants, an exhibition hall in the Moruno Building, an observation tower and a promenade area with, at its centre, a fountain in a large pond.
This area is completed by a small park and 150 parking places in the southern part. The ‘Plaza del Mar’, which from the beginning has been the stage for a variety of cultural activities and festivals, has revitalised the whole port area and has provided the inhabitants of El Grau with new space open to the sea.
At the begining of the new Century, in a three stage development, the definitive steps were taken to open the Port of Castellón to the town. The ‘Moll de Costa’ (Coast Quay) was transformed into a recreation area with a variety of services, at the same time the Castellón Yacht Club (Club Náutico de Castellón) club was renovated and extended and the new Marina Port Castelló (Marina PortCastelló) opened.
The first phase was the construction of a large park designed to accommodate open air performances and a children’s area including a man sized ‘snakes and ladders’ game with squares made of specially prepared ceramic tiles. All of this is surrounded by gardens, fountains and sculptures some already particularly popular with local people such as the ‘Font del Peix’ (the Fish Fountain)
Next was the construction of a leisure complex called the ‘Puerto Azahar’, which includes restaurants, pubs, shops, a park for children and an underground car park with 600 places.
Finally in 2008, the old warehouse of the port was converted into the Gran Casino Castellón. The exterior part of the building was carefully preserved and inside there are rooms for gambling, two restaurants, an auditorium for concerts, banquets and other social events as well as a large exterior terrace.
The latest important development in the public area of the port has been the opening of the Impala Sport Club in 2009, the biggest sports centre for raquet sports in Castellón. There are 24 padel courts, 8 tennis courts and 2 mini-tennis courts as well as a cafeteria and a bar situated on the site of the old ‘El Carmen’ residential building.
This sports club has been completed with a new area equipped with a swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurants and shops which has opened the northern area of the port to the public thus integrating this part with the Pinar Park and the Planetarium.