Plans to turn the Marina Port Vell into the Mediterraneans next Monaco are proving controversial, despite the current economic climate in Barcelona and throughout Spain.

Salamanca, a British private investment fund has taken control of much of the port area and has asked for a licence so that it can develop the Marina Port Vell to offer a berth for up to 150 superyachts, iup to 180 metres in length.

Residents of the nearby traditional fishermen’s neighborhood of La Barceloneta remain unenthused. Naturally they fear that a huge wall may go up around part of the port to ensure the privacy of a handful of wealthy people, creating a fortress-like billionaires’ ghetto on their doorstep, and destroy the character of their neighbourhood, which many have long felt to be under threat from tourism.

But the project comes as Barcelona seeks to rebrand itself by shedding its sun, sea and sagrada familia image, one of a low cost destination for stag parties and drunken revelry; and to raise its ambitions. Some might say this wonderful city deserves better, and a rebrand is long overdue.

Detractors of the project argue that it will not in reality create jobs, that specialist skillsets will be brought in from oversees. This may initially be the case, but if one looks at cities such as Monaco, whose shoes Barcelona hopes to follow in, the positive economic impact of the super rich is undeniable, and reflected in the offering of upscale shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and other services.

For now the outcome of the Marina Port Vell is still in the balance, since while the Spanish port authority has approved plans, consent from the Ajuntament de Barcelona, or Barcelona City Council, is still pending.

“This will have a landscape impact on Barcelona and so will have to be studied closely,” said Ajuntament spokesperson Rosa Díaz. “The city hall approves in principle of a large investment that might generate jobs and bring wealth, but it is not going to allow them to do whatever they like. And, of course, it will consult the neighbours.”