Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square – a step forward
The square will be a very important point of attraction for tourists and locals alike, while linking the commercial walled part of the old town with that of the outside will be an additional boost. Now that the project is near the end, there is growing interest from a number of people looking at the K. Paleologos area and K. Pantelidis, with two recent rentals to restaurants and fast food, with fairly high rents, while further interest is also expected. The creation of new projects also need their connection from the parking spaces in the moat (or below ground under the new square). Although there was an attempt in the past to connect the moat and parking area with K. Paleologos (with a free elevator provided by Caramondani company) this is not enough due to frequent vandalism that makes it inoperative. In my view what we need are escalators for outdoor to be able to help families with children, the elderly, disabled and others, to achieve the desired result of direct access. The cost of course for two double escalators (up and down) is high, estimated at EUR 500,000, but necessary.
Meanwhile, the frontage of the square looking onto the existing buildings (see K. Pantelidis / K. Paleologos) is inconsistent with the whole project. The prospect of grants to upgrade their facade at least offers them some help to achieve this, but the inability of individuals to contribute financially, and many other interventions in the area will make it difficult for this upgrade to be feasible.
At the same time, our proposal to create a multi-purpose commercial centre at the old GSP with shops, restaurants, museum, etc., has not been heard with the plans still in place for a grand office block construction at the time when there is no demand in this area. The proposal to rent the area for 15-20 years to the Municipality which will then sub-let units to selected users would be idea (as is the case with industrial area of the Nicosia Municipality), while the use for a limited number of years will allow the municipality to have a commercial use at least to overcome the current economic crisis. The proximity of Eleftheria Square to the existing museum is an added element for visitors, while the proposal by foreign consultants for the demolition of the museum and building a new one in the space of the nearby old hospital, so that its land can be utilised for offices and hotels is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard – a proposal that lacks in imagination and will have a negative on the upgrade of Nicosia.
After the development of Eleftheria square, the creation of a new modern museum in Nicosia built to similar standards as the British Museum is also necessary, and despite the previous and the current government supporting the rpoject, the issue of a new museum has been almost abandoned because of lack of public funds. The EUR 40 mln that the state received from a special tax, ended up back in government coffers, and nothing remains.
With the new museum needing EUR 40 mln, including consultants’ fees, etc., if we deduct 15% for studies, we are left with EUR 34 mln. Deducting the cost of underground parking then leaves us EUR 25 mln. With a construction cost of even EUR 2,500 / sq.m. the museum will only have an area of 10,000 sq.m. with plans to build any extension later in order to accommodate antiquities from museums in the troubled Middle East as storage.
Returning to the square, for restaurants and bars to succeed they need to keep their costs low, with one fish restaurant offering very good quality meals at EUR 12 / person and the a more traditional cuisine at EUR 25 / person. The first is constantly full and attracts families with children, etc. and the other is mainly aimed at higher income groups and business dinners. Therefore, each area may have unique offerings, but still for them to succeed they need the economic of the potential customers, as is the case of three new kebab/grill restaurants in the heart of Nicosia and another three opening nearby, that have succeeded because of their affordable menu.
Unfortunately, Nicosia cannot compete with Limassol for tourism and foreign residents where the circumstances are different. The success of both the Marina and the revitalised fishing harbour of the old port is a recent indication with rents of around EUR 30-40 / sq.m. per month.
So, it takes a combination of uses and prices, easy access and variety for the new square to achieve the goals of increasing the commercial activity of Nicosia that is directed at both locals and foreign visitors.
The case of Ayia Napa Municipality with constant advertisements, events, etc., is the best example, while the football and futsal fields on an organised basis have almost filled the gaps during this period, with hotels and various restaurants of Ayia Napa accommodating an additional 5,000 visitors of all ages. Limassol, with its frequent cultural and other events also helps develop the local tourism industry. Therefore, the completion of a project by itself will not have the success that is expected if it is not combined with other projects and events.
I wish Nicosia Municipality all the best for its proposals to succeed, but it also needs the support of the private sector, and the various negative factors, such as the removal and limitations on parking spaces was one of the reasons for the decline of the town centre.
Mistakes of the past that we should learn from and not stick to old mentalities