Breathing new life into the heart of a divided city
In old Nicosia, projects to restore the urban fabric, financed entirely by the EU, have made it possible to improve the development of a city which for decades has been separated in two.
The last divided capital city in Europe, Nicosia has been bisected since 1963 by a demarcation line separating the Greek and Turkish communities on the island of Cyprus. The events of 1974 turned this “green line” into a demilitarised buffer zone, an effective no man's land in the heart of a city with 200,000 inhabitants whose historic centre has been torn apart. Such a dissection could only have disastrous effects for the development of Nicosia and living conditions of its population. Previously prosperous areas, heirs to an ancient, cosmopolitan culture, have been abandoned and left to fall into disrepair.
However, since the end of 1979, representatives from both urban communities signed an agreement for the establishment of a master plan, the “Nicosia Master Plan” (NMP), drawn up by the Municipality of Nicosia and the Town Planning and Housing Department, under the aegis of the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP. The objective is to concertedly improve the urban planning, economic and social situation in the city. A multidisciplinary team from both communities was established for this purpose in 1981. On this basis, the “Partnerhsip for the future” programme was launched in October 2001, funded by the EU and implemented by the UNDP and its technical agency, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). This programme consists of a section for the “Rehabilitation of Old Nicosia” in accordance with the NMP’s principles, through projects of a demonstrative nature which encourage the pursuit of this approach.
A rejuvenating experience for Old Nicosia
In Omeriye, one of the districts alongside the buffer zone in the old fortified city, the first stage involved the redevelopment of Tyllirias street and the renovation of infrastructures (sewers, refuse collection, etc.). Following this the architectural complex of Ottoman Baths (late 16th century) and the surrounding site will be restored; returned to their original function, they have become a focal point for inhabitants and visitors alike, thereby promoting commercial activities. This work was awarded first prize in category 1 (architectural heritage) in the “European Union prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award”. The renovation work also included the North-facing facade and the gardens of the Omeriye Mosque and a former medieval monastery.
Also in the heart of the fortified city, another project was completed in the Phaneromeni district: renovation of streets in the area to the West of Ledra Street, improvement of infrastructures and urban facilities, restoration of typical facades and in phase two, restoration of the historic site of the Church of Phaneromeni and the surrounding area, with its traditional buildings and pedestrian passages, between the shopping area of Ledra Street and the school district to the East.
By improving living conditions and encouraging private initiatives, notably in the construction and small businesses sector, these two projects 100% funded by the EU have contributed to the revitalisation of the economic and social fabric of Old Nicosia. They have paved the way for the implementation of similar urban development projects, since Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, as well as projects of a socio-cultural and educational nature, such as multi-purpose centres providing services for elderly and young people, both within the fortified city and in the historic areas of Kaimakli and Pallouriotissa. This work, which is always conducted as a complement to the NMP, which has benefited during the 2004-2006 period from 50% joint Structural Fund aid out of total cost of 15 959 250 euros.