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People oppose hotel construction at Vake Park

By Natalie Osipovi
Monday, January 13
Citizens of Tbilisi held a rally against Tiflis Development Company’s plans to build a new hotel inside the publicly-owned Vake Park at the location of an old closed-down restaurant, called Budapest. The demonstration took place in front of Tbilisi City Hall on January 10.

Environmental activists consider it illegal to construct a building in a recreational zone. They have written a complaint to Tbilisi City Hall, and are also planning to block the project by going to court.

According to the online petition, the planned construction will have a devastating environmental impact on the life of the city and its citizens.

“Much of the green area of existing parks of Tbilisi has already been sacrificed, as it was stripped of its recreational status and sold to private businesses by the City Council in order to build restaurants, apartment buildings and hotels,” the petition says.

Protesters claim, that this construction will destroy the recreation zone that Vake Park represents, a park that every weekend is teeming with joggers, families and others.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection Khatuna Gogaladze is also against the construction of the new hotel. She said there should not be new construction projects in the central districts, and that green zones should be maintained if possible.

“Tbilisi is densely populated, with rapidly growing traffic. When planning new development under such conditions it is important to preserve the city’s recreational zones,” Gogaladze stated.

People opposing the hotel’s construction gathered outside Tbilisi City Hall on Friday for speeches and a small concert where Georgian singers and bands, like Gravity, Shota Adamashvili, Bakur Burduli and others performed for several hours.

The organizer of the rally, member of Partizanuli Mebagheoba (Guerilla Gardening), Erekle Urushadze said, that it is illegal to construct something inside a recreational zone, which the location of this new hotel is. “Tbilisi City Hall has the right to make exceptions from this rule, but only if the construction is not against the public interest,” Urushadze mentioned.

Rally participants were also supported from abroad. Georgian Luka Bakradze together with his little son, Matte, posted a video from Berlin in order to show how the green parks are being taken care of in Europe. Another Georgian who lives in Norway also posted a greeting from various areas of Oslo, where he said they would never cut down trees to build a hotel.

The protesters call on the Tbilisi City Hall, Tbilisi City Council and Tbilisi Architecture Department of Construction to stop abusing their authority and issuing permits for building projects that bring about irreparable harm to the eco-system of Tbilisi and the health of its citizens.

However, Tbilisi City Hall claims that the construction is legal and that the location of the new hotel is on private property.

The acting mayor of Tbilisi City Hall, Sevdia Ugrekhelidze said the protesters are poorly informed because the area where the hotel will be located does not belong to Vake Park and has been in private ownership since 1990s.

“Tbilisi needs development, more hotels and beds,” Ugrekhelidze claimed.

The negotiations between the two sides ended without results, and the constructional work continues.