By Annette Chrysostomou
After 25 years, residents of Nicosia are still waiting to see what will happen to the old GSP stadium in the centre of the capital. The old stadium has remained a dusty parking parking lot ever since 1991 when the Pancyprian Gymnastic Association ceded it to the government.
“It has been like this for all these years. In the summer it is dusty and in the winter it is full of water. It is nothing, not a park and not a centre, just a parking space for the ministry,” said Andys Theofylaktou from non-profit citizen’s movement Urban Cyprus.
The old stadium was built in 1902 and had a capacity of 12,000. It was used until the early 1990s until the Makarios athletic centre and later on the new GSP stadium outside Nicosia was built.
Back in 2008, members of the public had participated in the first ever municipal referendum to vote on how they would like to see the stadium developed and submit their own proposals. According to the results, residents said they wanted an open, green area with few buildings and easy access to pedestrians instead of cars.
More specifically, 81 per cent of those asked said they would prefer as few buildings as possible, while 70 per cent said they would like an open area instead of covered.
A proposal to build a very high building in part of the old stadium was rejected by 65 per cent of the public.
“We believe that this referendum promotes democracy and change and reinforces the participation of residents in the decision-making for the future of our city,” then Nicosia mayor Eleni Mavrou said at the time.
“A year later, the ministry (interior) should have had the techno-economic study and engineering designs to estimate the construction cost and to proceed with the tender procedure by the investor,” Urban Cyprus commented. “Instead the ministry did absolutely nothing and architectural plans that cost many thousands of euros are collecting cobwebs in the interior ministry’s drawers at a time when supposedly the government promotes development.”But nothing happened despite this proud announcement, until in 2010 the state issued another statement, this one about an architectural competition launched, this time, not by the municipality, but the interior ministry.
In 2011 the architectural firm Yiannis Kizis in collaboration with the architectural office Gr. G Patsalosavvis won the first prize in the architectural competition for plans that included a public square, some facilities and five levels of parking.
The citizen’s movement is not against private investment. “There is a good reason to involve a private company, the municipality doesn’t have the money. You could give them 20 per cent of the land to develop and then they are responsible for turning 80 per cent into a park,” Theofylaktou noted.
Until May this year, the project was not mentioned again. Then another proposed move was announced by the interior ministry.
It entailed an ambitious project including a 70-bedroom boutique hotel, 7,000 square metres of retail and entertainment shops and a covered car park with 1,000 spots.
“At the time of the 2011 competition, the budget was €50 million. Now it is around € 22 or 23 million The problem was to make it viable and attract investors. Because of that some changes have been made by the government. The levels of parking have been reduced from five to three and more commercial buildings have been suggested,” architect Grigoris Patsalosavvis said.
Speaking at the time, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos said that the Yiannis Kizis tender of four years previously had not moved forward for various reasons – including the deep financial crisis Cyprus was in and a lack of investor interest.
But is it moving forward now? First of all, it is still not clear whether the stadium will end up in the hands of the municipality, the interior ministry or the finance ministry.
“It is the mayor’s job to push for this but nothing is happening. They will say different things every now and then, every six months or so there are meetings but nothing is being done,” Theofylaktou commented. “The only thing they are interested in the finance and interior ministry is not to lose the parking to put their cars.”
There will be a new statement soon however. This week the mayor told reporters he had asked the interior ministry for permission to manage the stadium with the aim of turning it into a park with an underground car park.
A meeting with the stakeholders including potential investors, the interior minister and the mayor has been arranged for the end of next week. Sources are confident that an agreement with the municipality will be reached at the meeting.