New Batumi Boulevard: the Majority Say “NO”

The fate of the Old Batumi Boulevard remains unknown. The Ministry of Finance and Economy of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara introduced the first version of the Boulevard’s reconstruction and development late last year, which resulted in widespread dissatisfaction among local citizens. The initiative group ‘Protect Old Boulevard’ cannot find a common language with the authorities and the private sector, a fact that repeatedly encourages them to enter into new protests, the last of which took place on January 17 and aimed to call to a stop the current repair work on the Old Boulevard.

The problem with the Boulevard has become complex, since it is not only regards the concept of development, but also connects with the rehabilitation works which have already significantly changed the face of the Old Boulevard.

“We were invited to the presentation of the development project for the Old Boulevard, where we were allowed to express our dissatisfaction about the complete transformation of the central alley, where, instead of footpaths, different facilities are to be built,” said lawyer Giorgi Khimshiashvili in an interview with Adjara TV. “The authorities allegedly made concessions and agreed to save the old alley, but in practice we see that the Old Boulevard is being actively worked on, the central path is being excavated, and the Boulevard has changed in appearance,”

The first version of the concept of the Old Boulevard was submitted in December 2015, according to which the Boulevard will be divided into several zones; three alleys will reduce to two, creating an entirely new infrastructure with recreation area and cafes. However, the creators of the project, the company Dreamland Oasis, which is known for the construction of a large-scale hotel project Dreamland Oasis Chakvi, assured that they will not touch the Boulevard’s green areas.

The Old Boulevard is a significant place for Batumi’s residents – the large park is a favorite place for many and resonates strong childhood memories for most. “The Boulevard is the heritage of Batumi, and when the city says ‘No,’ you need to hear it,” said Davit Trapaidze, representative of ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ Group.

The Government, seemingly settled between a frying pan and a fire, are trying to solve the problem by inviting members of ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ into the working group to improve the concept of the Boulevard. Moreover, authorities understand the dissatisfaction, but say that in this case they need to settle some legal issues.

“Part of the work has already been done and paid for, so we need to see if there is any possibility to make changes in the contract without negatively affecting the company,” said Archil Khabadze, Head of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara.

It seems there is to be no success in terms of the legal aspect. A few days after the meeting with the head of the region, the initiative group once again came to protest with the previous requirements – stop the repair work on the central alley, complement a working group with qualified personnel and stop any conversion of the Old Boulevard before the concept’s final presentation.

In an interview with Adjara TV, Khimshiashvili pointed to the fact that the Old Boulevard is a cultural heritage and carries other functions than those mentioned in the contract with Dreamland Oasis. “I carefully studied the contract and found that the goals of the future Old Boulevard should bring economic benefit, make a profit and become a place of entertainment. Although I believe that there are things that may not be financially profitable, they are important to society, as our Boulevard is,” he noted.

Initiative group ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ is not giving up and is preparing a series of large-scale actions – they are collecting signatures for online and offline petitions, launching campaigns in social networks and will continue street protests.

Let us remember that the work on the concept of the Old Boulevard development is still on-going and the final version will be presented in May 2016. According to the initiative group ‘Protect the Old Boulevard’ and the demand of the majority of local residents, any work being done the Boulevard should cease until the concept presentation takes place.

Eka Karsaulidze

21 January 2016 22:05