By Bejay Browne
PAPHOS has only one chance to revive the old town and this depends on a number of elements coming together at the same time, public officials and business owners have warned.
Paphos councillor Andreas Chrysanthou said that the successful revitalisation of the old town of ‘Ktima’ relies on the timely completion of upgrading projects which got underway in December and relocating the town’s main bus terminal back to the area, from its current base in Kato Paphos.
“Under a previous government and a decision made by a former minister, a rather dubious deal was made to move the bus station from Karavella in the old town to Kato Paphos. It happened almost overnight, we woke up and the station had moved. (Savvas) Vergas was in charge then and I believe this may have happened under suspicious circumstances,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
Vergas, the disgraced former mayor, is currently behind bars serving a six year prison term after pleading guilty to 11 charges, including bribery, corruption and money laundering.
The once vibrant centre has become desolate in places with shops and premises lying empty. There has been a recent push to re-invigorate the area, with a number of new ventures opening up, including arts and craft centres, cafes and bars.
In June, president Nicos Anastasiades announced €60m worth of projects for Paphos, including the regeneration of the traditional shopping centre and Kennedy Square, the restoration of the municipal market, the upgrading and enhancement of the Markideio theatre, and connecting and enhancing the squares of October 28, Kosti Palama and Dionysios Solomos (around the town hall).
The work, which will see the regeneration of the old town, has long been a priority for local businesses and other organisations, who have welcomed the news.
Moving the main bus station back to the old town must happen simultaneously and is something which the council members support, said Chrysanthou. The facility needs to be relocated back to Karavella, next to the Markideio theatre which is about to undergo a renovation, he said.
Local businesswoman Natalie Hadjigeorgiou, who opened “The Place” in the old town last May, agrees.
“We need people to come to the old town and stay here to enjoy the area and not to be dropped at the harbour as happens now. The bus station being moved back to the old town will help businesses tremendously.”
Chrysanthou said that along with the renovations, a nearby bus terminal will mean that thousands of visitors a day will be dropped off in the area, in particular tourists.
He noted that along with all of the upgrades, the municipality is encouraging more small cafes and traditional shops to open, and traditional music events.
“I moved to Paphos in 1992 and it was full of life; it has gradually declined. One of the reasons is the construction of the mall, which I believe should’ve been built outside the town as in many other cities all over the world,” he said.
He continued: “The decline is also because of the products which were being sold. People come to Cyprus and expect to find local traditions and products, especially in the town centre.”
Hadjigeorgiou agrees, and said this is why she opened The Place in an old, renovated warehouse in Ktima. Local craftspeople and artists showcase their work and regular workshops are held. The public can also watch local craftspeople, such as wood carvers, chair makers, basket weavers, potters and others at work.
“Everything here is traditional and handmade. People were disappointed to come to the market and see goods from China. This is why everything we have is natural and from small producers in Paphos villages. People want to see what they’re creating.”
She added that more traditional operators in the area will encourage more visitors to the old town.
Chrysanthou added: “In my opinion, this is our last chance to revive the old town, if we fail, it will die and become deserted and abandoned. Executing all of the projects is not just for Paphos 2017, they will be here forever, and we need to expand on this for the benefit of the town and everyone living or visiting here. We have to create something for the next generation.”