A proposed hotel, being built on the southwest corner of Austurvöllur square by Parliament, is the flash point of a conflict between former President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and the hotel developers.
MBL reports that Vigdís was amongst those who gathered yesterday at a protest demonstration against the project. She and others in a group called “Honorary Citizens of Reykjavík” contend that the hotel is being built on what they contend is the site of some 600 graves, some of them dating back to the time of the Settlement.
So determined is Vigdís to stop the project, in fact, that she is ready to put actions behind her words.
“If [the City of Reykjavík] do not trust themselves to put an end to this idea because they will need to pay the developers some kind of damages, then I am ready to take up a collection,” she told attendees. “I will stand outside with a can at the Kringlan mall and collect money to pay those damages.”
However, the developers told RÚV that there are exactly zero graves on the plot where the hotel will be built. They contend that the hotel plot will not overlap a nearby site where these old graves are actually located, and in fact proposed development plans dating back to 1987 have repeatedly pointed this out.
The conflict has been going on for some time now, with Reykjavík City Council often in the crossfire. It is often difficult to disengage a planning project once it has been launched, city officials have contended, but a neighbouring hotel project on Lækjargata was recently delayed due to the discovery of another ancient site. That excavation is now being incorporated into the project design itself.