On 25 January, the mayor of Bucharest, Mr. Sorin Oprescu, has visited his Czech counterpart in Prague in order to learn from Prague’s successful experience in applying and using EU funds for the regeneration of its historic centre. Prague Old City is now one of the main tourist attractions in Europe and a vital revenue generator for the city.
Bucharest’s story is Prague’s reverse of the coin. The regeneration process of Lipscani, the historic quarter of Romania’s capital, is in dangerous disarray, the heritage buildings located there risking an irreversible degradation.
That is the result of years of procrastination from the authorities, two decades long protracted ownership disputes generated by the usurpations of the communist era and a property bubble that saw prices skyrocket to unsustainable levels, higher that in locations such as Paris’ Le Marais.
Added to that is the ongoing crisis that will have inevitable consequences for the embattled historical centre. Lipscani needs massive investment in infrastructure and the renovation/ restoration of its magnificent period properties. Sedesa, a Spanish company, contracted by the mayoralty. at great expense for the public purse, to mend and update Lipscani infrastructure is plagued by mismanagement and misuse of funds, with the result that its works are in a mess and an eyesore for Bucharest’s historical centre. That is certainly not a tourist attraction, on the contrary.
A modern road and sewage infrastructure would have constituted the platform for starting the the proper regeneration process. Now that seems more uncertain than at any time in the last decade. The mayor, who has been elected less than a year ago, has to take decisive action and implement the much awaited regeneration plan.
In that regard the visit to Prague is a step in the right direction, although mayor Oprescu could have seen closer to home, in Romania itself, a successful example of historical quarter regeneration in the city of Sibiu. There is much to learn from the experience of this ancient Transylvanian city, where the local authorities more than a decade ago actively sought advice and funding from the German government (country hosting many of Sibiu born ethnic Germans) and the European Union, which produced excellent results. Consequently Sibiu was named the European Capital of Culture in 2007 and a recent Forbes survey put it among the top 10 most idyllic cities in Europe.
It is clear that Bucharest has a long and bumpy road to a place that would vindicate its rich history and huge potential as the sixth largest European city. ©Valentin Mandache
©Valentin Mandache and http://viapontica.wordpress.com 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.
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