Nicosia’s Eleft­he­ria Square – a step for­ward

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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