Home News We call for immediate halt to construction in Firdusi District
News
2020 Jun
15

We call for immediate halt to construction in Firdusi District

On June 13, at the initiative of the Yerevan City Council, an emergency session was convened to discuss the fate of Yerevan’s 33rd District (Firdusi). Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan, Chief of Staff of Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan, Varag Siseryan, Yerevan’s Chief Architect Artur Meschyan, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Narine Khachaturyan (joined online), Acting Chairman of the Urban Development Committee, Armen Ghularyan, members of the Yerevan City Council, representatives from the civil society and professional community were attending the discussion.

During the discussion, members of the Yerevan City Council and representatives of civil society presented multiple problematic issues related to the construction plan of Firdusi District, particularly problems related to the approval of the plan, design, companies responsible for sale, construction organizations, selection of the chief architect for the design, identity of investors and their previous activities, cultural and historical assessment of the district and monuments therein, compensation to residents and guarantees thereof. It should be stated that the answers of relevant authorities to the questions of the City Council us well as our questions were always deflective and evasive and, in some cases, accompanied by unacceptable remarks. No clear and credible answers were given with regard to issues of public importance and our suspicions and worries were not alleviated.

Therefore, we find it unacceptable:

  • That Mayor Hayk Marutyan displays an evasive approach in discussions regarding the problematic construction plan in a district located in the core of Yerevan, having preserved some of its unique and ancient features. It is incomprehensible to us that city authorities adopt such an approach, with the mayor having such an irresponsible attitude to the current situation.
  • The attitude of Yerevan’s Chief Architect Artur Meschyan and his uncalled for emotional and moral lectures basically showed his ignorance to the well-being of people living in the Firdusi District, as well as cultural values, concerns and professional warnings regarding the destruction of the historical habitat. It is puzzling and dangerous when the Chief Architect of Yerevan equates urban development to a business and thus equates his position to that of someone promoting business interests.
  • The Chief of Staff of the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Coordinator of the Working Group of the Firdusi District construction displayed an attitude to civil society similar to that of the former regime. His contradictory and shallow remarks failed to make a logical differentiation between the current construction plan for the Firdusi District and former corrupt schemes and role-players. It became clear from his speech that the current government has not given a political and legal assessment to officials and businessmen who have consistently destroyed Yerevan’s historical and cultural heritage and continues to cooperate with them thus continuing the construction plan that has had a dark and non-transparent launch. Thus, the government has not upheld the principle of the revolution for excluding such behavior.

We state the following:

Current developments around the Firdusi District are the continuation of a process launched during the previous regime, as a result of which:

  1. A huge swathe of historical and cultural heritage of Yerevan is being destroyed. The entire Firdusi District is one of the important historical and exclusive areas of Yerevan’s architecture. It is as significant an architectural, historical and cultural value as the Yerevan designed by Tamanyan, constructions of Soviet modernism and other cultural layers of the city. In this regard, it is important to preserve the district and the community while at the same time providing modern solutions to current domestic and infrastructure problems.
  2. The rights of the residents of Firdusi District have been violated. Representatives of the construction companies exert various forms of psychological pressure against the residents thus forcing them to sign contracts and be evicted from their homes. Residents who signed the contracts have sounded the alarm that no compensations have been received so far despite being fixed in the contracts. Residents objecting to the construction of the Firdusi District are being silenced.
  3. People who have previously contributed to the deprivation of multiple families, engaged in dubious and illicit transactions, people who have defaced the cultural layers of the city and their affiliated companies are involved in the implementation of this project employing the same principles and style of work as before.
  4. The democratic principle of participation has been infringed upon. No public and professional discussions around the project have been held. It is not clear how the company Dianar has been selected as a contractor and how Narek Sargsyan has been chosen as the chief architect.
  5. During a state of emergency, a building of historic value has been destroyed and other historical and cultural values present in the Firdusi District are now at risk.

We find the following to be of concern:

  1. The involvement of the director and shareholder of infamous and officially bankrupt Glendale Hills Company, Eduard Melikyan in the project as someone responsible for the sales of the Firdusi District and a member of the group approved by the government to work with investors. We find it very suspicious that Mr. Melikyan is at the same time a shareholder of Dianar CJSC, which is the founder of almost every construction company.
  2. Selection of architect Narek Sargsyan as the Chief Architect of the construction and his involvement in the group approved by the government, taking into account the fact that the project concept developed by him was approved by the previous authorities when had clear conflicts of interest as he occupied high-ranking positions in the government and the Yerevan Municipality.
  3. In the absence of a complete package of urban development documents, particularly permissions for the project and relevant permits, high-ranking officials have given the green light to this project and the process has been moving forward aggressively.

We demand the following:

  1. Immediate halt to all sorts of construction activities in the Firdusi District until the public will be presented with the all necessary documents proving the legality of the process, including the construction plan approved after 2018 and the relevant permissions stemming from it.
  2. Subject to liability all those responsible for the illegal demolition of the building dating back to the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
  3. Publish all documents related to the construction of the Firdusi District, including financial guarantees of acquiring companies, contract signed with the Yerevan Municipality, architectural and layout tasks (design permissions) regardless their expiration periods, designs of the district and separate buildings, reports of environmental impact assessments, conclusions of ecological expert examinations, conclusions of urban development expert examinations, permissions for demolition and construction.
  4. An explanation as to why and through what procedure Dianar company was chosen as an acquiring intermediary entity and how Eduard Melikyan was included in the working group approved by the government.
  5. Establishment of a joint working group with the participation of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Yerevan Municipality, professional community and representatives of civil society to carry out an inventory of all monuments existing in the territory of the district.
  6. Organization of a tender for a new design for construction of the Firdusi District that will ensure the harmony of reconstruction of the district with the surround environment that will have formed. Considering the size of the project and the public interest towards it, public discussion of tender proposals should be organized, issuance of permits for the selected project as well as construction should be implemented in accordance with legally defined procedures and international best practices.
  7. Review and publish the number of residents who have/had land in the Firdusi District and how many of them have received compensation, how much the prices of the lands were estimated to be and based on what principles. It should be made clear how many residents are awaiting compensation if there are families who have found themselves in a homeless situation, clarify their number and explain why they have not yet received compensation.

Despite all of the aforementioned, we express our readiness to engage in a constructive dialogue with relevant authorities based on the values of the revolution, public interest and the vision for the preservation of the city’s heritage.

  1. Transparency International Anticorruption Center
  2. Initiative for the Protection of Firdusi
  3. Committee for the Protection of Yerevan’s Heritage
  4. UrbanLab
  5. “Sev Bibar” Leftist Critical Platform
  6. Cultural & Social Narratives lab
  7. Human Rights Research Center
  8. “SEMER” Young Diaspora Minds
  9. PEN Armenia Center
  10. Journalists’ Club Asparez
  11. OurYerevan
  12. Citizen’s Choice Social Democratic Party
  13. A group of concerned residents of Firdusi District