NICOSIA got its Christmas present a bit early. Four days before Christmas, it was finally given the brand new Eleftheria Square, with its modernistic, concrete bridge, that took an incredible six years to complete. The project is not completely finished with some work still to be done in the moat, but the barriers and construction equipment have gone and it is now open to pedestrians; the Nicosia municipal council, thankfully, decided to keep it car-free.
The re-design and construction of the square was beset by problems. Before the work on it had even begun, with campaigners trying to block it for aesthetic reasons, arguing the ultra-modern architectural design was incompatible with the mediaeval wall and the area in general. This was nothing compared to what followed. Construction work began in 2012 and the bridge was set to finish the following year. The multi-storey car park in Omirou Avenue would be delivered in 2014.
The recession wreaked havoc with the plans. A dispute with the contractor caused big delays and in the end the contractor quit for a hefty compensation and a new construction firm had to be found. Disputes among the municipality, new contractors and architects caused more delays, while the architect responsible for the new design, Zaha Hadid, passed away in 2016. The opening kept being put back, while work on the car park only began this year.
Much has been said and written about the square during the time we were waiting for its completion, but only now will it be put to the real test. Will it serve the people of Nicosia, will it improve their quality of life, will people enjoy using the new square, will it enhance the area aesthetically? The lack of greenery was a common criticism of the plans as was the lack of shaded areas. Perhaps these issues will be looked at subsequently, because all big projects are subject to modifications and improvements.
For now, people will be happy that the project is completed and the construction site that blighted that part of the capital for six years is finally gone. There is still the construction site on Homer Avenue, which remains an eyesore and a big inconvenience for drivers, but we can’t have everything. At least, the main part of the Eleftheria Square project is finished. The work in the moat will be finished next month, it has been reported, but we should take that with a pinch of salt.
We have become accustomed to waiting, but will also be pleased that this Christmas we have been given back the capital’s main square. Merry Christmas.