EVER since the 1990s, when the old GSP stadium in the centre of Nicosia was demolished, it has been used as a car park. When the nearby Finance Ministry building was completed it became the parking area for the civil servants. The parking area in the basement of the new building was in no way enough for the cars of all of the ministry’s employees, most of whom, drove to work in their own cars.
In 2011, the winner of the competition for the development of the area, which would be turned into a park with some shops, also proposed a four-level underground parking area that would accommodate 1,700 cars. This posed a problem as the cost of the underground parking area – €50 million – made the project very expensive. Neither the Christofias government nor the current government had the funds for the project, so in 2013 it was decided to follow the BOT (build-operate-transfer) method.
The cost of the car park, however, made the project unattractive to investors as they would be unable to recoup their investment. The government, therefore, decided to cut the cost by reducing the capacity of the parking area to 1,000 cars, while increasing the area of the commercial premises from 3,500 to 8,500 square metres. This would allow the company undertaking the project to cover its investment by having a much bigger commercial space to rent out.
On the surface, this appears a rational solution to a problem, but it defeats the purpose of the project, which was to have a green area in the centre of the capital. According to the new plans, we will have another shopping precinct with a little bit of green instead of a large area of green, with a couple of cafes/restaurants on its perimeter. There are so many empty shops in the centre of town, it makes no sense to build even more in an area that could have been used as a green haven. Do we really need more concrete?
The answer would be to abandon the idea of an underground parking area as this would drastically cut the cost and make the project affordable even for the state. Turning the old GSP into gardens, with a cafe and perhaps a small play area for children is all that is needed, especially now that Eleftheria Square will be turned into a concrete zone. That is all the capital needs. We do not need more parking spaces, let alone for 1,000 cars as we should be discouraging, rather than encouraging everyone driving into the centre. Finance ministry employees do not have to park their cars across the street from their work. They could park their cars a bit further away and walk for a few minutes or, even better, they could take the bus.