By Poly Pantelides
MORE than eight years ago, the Cabinet decided Nicosia should have its own Cultural Centre as “a focal point for the island’s performing arts”, and eight years later a different Cabinet has decided they will spend taxpayers’ money differently.
The Cabinet has finally decided to suspend plans to build in the heart of Nicosia the mammoth project whose scope and cost has spooked lawmakers over the years. There will be no call to include the project in requests for EU funding during the 2014-2020 period, the Cabinet decided.
The board of the Cyprus Cultural Foundation that was set up in 2005 to oversee the project has said suspending plans was a waste of money that had already been spent. The board said yesterday the project was of “huge importance” culturally and otherwise.
But data from the European Commission’s statistical services suggest Cypriots themselves are actually happy with their cultural goings-on as they stand. Asked last year whether they were happy with their cities’ cultural facilities most of the island’s residents said they were “very” or “rather” satisfied.
Estimated to cost about €115 million, the project aimed to create a hub of activity comparable to those in major capitals across the world. Taxpayers have already paid at least €22 million for that vision, and sources said the government would need to negotiate the final amounts to be paid to compensate architects and terminate contracts. Most of the compulsory payments to architects, consultants and the like have been made, but more money may be lost yet before the project is laid to rest.
Former finance minister Charilaos Stavrakis said in his book on his stint as an official for the previous government the whole idea was never viable.
Nicosia has less than a handful of theatres which are never filled to capacity, he said. And the cultural centre would be really close to the brand new National Theatre. “The project would make sense only if Nicosia were the size of New York and Cypriots had the musicality of Austrian people,” Stavrakis wrote.
The centre was to have included a 1,400-cacacity auditorium, a recital hall seating up to 4,500 people, a rehearsal hall, education centre and an impressive foyer to house shops, a cafe and restaurant amid loads of empty space for informal exhibitions and performances. Nicosia is home to roughly 330,000 people and the island’s whole population comes to about 860,000.