Government to Restore Historic Houses along Rioni River

The Municipal Development Fund (MDF) of Georgia has announced plans to restore 41 historic homes along the Rioni River in Kutaisi.

The Mayor of Kutaisi, Giorgi Chigvaria, is calling the plan the “project of the century.”

On April 26, the MDF, an agency of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia (MRDI), officially opened the bidding process for the design of the Kutaisi historical residential district and Davit Kakabadze Art Gallery.

The rehabilitation project will include residential houses and public buildings from the 19th century, lining both of the banks of the Rioni River. A pedestrian area will also be installed from the Red to the Chain bridges, connecting residential and public areas of the central historic district. Along with residential buildings, the Davit Kakabadze Art Gallery will be renovated. The gallery was founded in 1976 and is located in the historic district of Kutaisi on Rustaveli Avenue. It has the official status of a cultural heritage monument of Georgia. It houses nearly 3,000 paintings, sculptures, and applied arts exhibits.

The massive rehabilitation works have a projected start date in 2020. The MDF and Kutaisi City Hall have already begun meeting with architects and experts, including specialists from the Cultural Heritage Agency, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure.

The targeted buildings, in the heart of historic Kutaisi, have not been updated or restored since their construction. The work will attempt to preserve the original look and style of the 19th century buildings. For the past several years, many have called for the restoration of Kutaisi’s historic district, which has been left to decay while Tbilisi historic areas are slowly being brought back to life, Mtskheta got a complete overhaul, and Dusheti was recently announced as the target of the next major rural historic restoration project.

The major impetus behind the restoration of Kutaisi’s riverbank homes is increasing the city’s attractiveness to tourists, both foreign and domestic. Since Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air made the Kutaisi International Airport its hub for flights to a number of European destinations, the number of visitors to the area has dramatically increased. Many tourists, who otherwise may not have considered a stop in Kutaisi, are now tacking it on at the start or end of a trip if they are using the Kutaisi airport. Especially in the warmer months, natural wonders such as the Prometheus and Sataplia Caves and Martvili and Okatse Canyons are popular, a short drive from the Kutaisi airport, located about 25 km from the city center. Kutaisi now hopes to drive some of those visitors to spend a night or two in the city itself. Despite being the second largest city in Georgia (or third in the summer, pushed down the list by Batumi’s seasonal crowds) with a population of about 150,000 people, Kutaisi is known as a sleepy city without much to do. The restoration of the historic district should increase its charm, which City Hall hopes will help further develop leisure infrastructure that can be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

By Samantha Guthrie

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06 May 2019 17:31