Tbilisi Maimed

Ugly Constructions Deform the Face of the Capital

Municipality fails to control out-of-bounds construction in the capital, which hits the Tbilisi historical and central districts.

Georgia produces near to nothing, but private entrepreneurship flourishes through small trade. Unfortunately natural beauty of Tbilisi falls victim to ugly trading points, while the municipal policies lag behind.

In last ten years small markets and trade booths installed on the sidewalks became a trademark of the city.  But as incomes of the owners grow, their construction activity threatens more permanent damage to the landscape. Multistoried buildings are constructed in the historical part of the city, where the buildings do not exceed the three stores. Cafes and shops are opened in the parks frequently irreversibly harming the plants and original planning.

Chief Architect of Tbilisi Mamuka Chkhaidze pledges that his office is doing its best to preserve the city’s beauty. He says, “Since I started working here no new construction was started in the parks.” He fails however to provide any response regarding the policy on the buildings constructed before his appointment in 2000.

But even now, the construction continues. Along the central avenue of the city, near the subway station a 10 meters-high ferny granite wall with adjacent small plaza was adding a charming touch of nature to the city center.

Today the construction workers, who reportedly plan to build the glass-enclosed trade pavilions, block the sidewalk. Small plaza would certainly disappear, while the pavilions will hide the wall.

Construction of the similar pavilions has been launched in the city before. Many of them were never completed and stand as an ugly juxtaposition of steel and concrete. Others, functioning as a home to small traders and gamblers don’t exactly add to the serenity of Tbilisi

Tbilisites despise the construction. They believe that the pavilions would not fit in-between the buildings built in the beginning of the XX century. Pedestrians think that the new construction will make the street overloaded and the appearance of the old district will irreversibly change.

Many of the locals do not like the idea of a new trade area. “This is terrible! Trade centers should not be built in the very heart of the city. This would be yet another mini market place that we have everywhere in the city” – says Nino Kvakhadze, Tbilisi resident.

Civil Georgia correspondent found the Chief Architect extremely excited by this project. As we found out though, Chief Architect has no idea what the pavilions will be used for, the shops, cafe, company office or an advertisement agency.  He also failed to present the actual blueprints, but says he likes the glass construction, “a mini aquarium” as he called it.

We tried to look into the issue of ownership of this spot. It appears that in 2000 the “Ninth Tide, Ltd.” purchased 4000 square meters of the territory adjacent to the “Rustaveli” subway station for 65 000 Laris (approximately 45 000 USD) – a negligible price for land in the very center of Tbilisi.

Head of the company Irakli Sepiashvili says that the company itself was the initiator of the purchase and it acquired the territory under the President’s decree, without going through the competition of the construction projects.

The Chief Architect however, says the opposite. According to his information, the territory was given to the company as a result of an open competition, while Tbilisi municipality maintains 10 % ownership of this territory.

Such inconsistency only leads us to suspect that the deal was arranged through the personal, and, possibly corrupt connections. The negligible price paid for the land only strengthens these suspicions. If the company owner’s words on acquiring the land under “special arrangement” rather than through the competition are to be trusted (and who else should know better?) we could already speak about very convincing, and quite alarming evidence of the officials mismanaging the property.

When the city municipality sells the parks and streets at discounted prices and, reportedly, maintains the share in profits from the new trade points, it is quite clear that city’s appearance is no longer a top priority.

Tbilisi municipality was not available to comment on the project for “Civil Georgia.” Only information that we received was that the Mayor’s Office “agrees to the Chief Architect’s opinion.”

This sad case only accents that Tbilisi’s beauty and charm lack proper maintenance and management, while the municipal dealings in planning, construction and licensing remain highly non-transparent.  As a result the historical beauty and character of Tbilisi City gradually vanishes into history.

By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia