Newly Renovated Orbeliani Reopens

Renovation works have been completed on Grigol Orbeliani Square, near 9 April Garden, in central Tbilisi. A re-opening ceremony took place on Monday evening to celebrate the completion of the two-year rehabilitation project. The works were supported by the Tbilisi Development Fund within the framework of the New Tiflis project. The rehabilitation includes the restoration of 20 buildings and the construction of an underground parking lot for 150 vehicles.

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, President Salome Zurabishvili, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze, Tbilisi Chairman Giorgi Tkemaladze and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze addressed guests at the opening ceremony.

“We have proven that when there is unanimity and motivation, we can implement large-scale projects in a short time,” said Bakhtadze on Monday.

“Today it is a very important day for us. During the local self-government elections, I promised the population that Orbeliani Square and its adjacent streets would be rehabilitated. We have fulfilled this promise…Our main goal and objective is that the whole city will be like this – environmentally clean, well organized, with many green spaces. I'm sure we will be able to do it with unified effort,” Kaladze added.

“This project was one of the most important goals for us in the pre-election period, and as soon as we had the authority, we started to implement it. Around 65 million GEL ($25.1 mln) is being spent on the reconstruction of the square...with the aim of making it one of the best places in the capital,” Kaladze said last August.

Work on historic buildings included the removal of irreparably damaged sections, constructive reinforcement, removal of unregulated structures from facades, such as air conditioning units, cleaning and refining brickwork, restoration of architectural details, and repairing damaged roofing. 13 monuments of cultural heritage were preserved. In 2017, water, sewage, and natural gas lines were completely renovated on Orbeliani Square, as they had not been functioning properly for some time.

Tbilisi now has another pedestrian zone, which includes parts of Pkhovi and Atoneli Streets, neighboring Orbeliani Square. The rehabilitated area stretches from Dry Bridge, via Atoneli and Pkhovi Streets, to Alexandre Pushkin Street, including Khazina and Purtseladze streets, as well as part of Grigol Orbeliani Square and 9 April Garden. It is a continuation of the greater tourist route from Mushtaidi Garden to Freedom Square via the renovated David Aghmashenebeli Avenue.

The renovation of Orbeliani Square began in mid-2017 and was initially scheduled to be completed by the end of that year. When discussing the project in December 2017, then-Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said of Orbeliani, “This place instils a special feeling of harmony which sets Tbilisi apart from every other city; a place where the past and present come together. New Tbilisi is what unites the old and the new…Given new developmental requirements and the pace of growth, we are obligated to ensure that every ornament in Tbilisi, every building – each worth a whole city – is preserved, restored, cherished, and rejuvenated. This project will put into place a new investment platform in Tbilisi, and the resources invested by the state will be complementary in breathing new life into the area…There must be a place for everyone in renovated Tbilisi, our most beautiful and cherished capital. I once again congratulate you on the beginning of this important project.”

In a December 2015 interview with GEORGIA TODAY, then-head of the Tbilisi Development Fund, Giorgi Baidarashvili mentioned the importance of preserving the Orbeliani Square area for Tbilisi’s historic district. He projected then that a plan for the renovation of Orbeliani and surrounding streets would be completed in 2016.

Several major infrastructural projects are planned for the city in 2019-2020. Large projects are being implemented by Tbilisi City Hall’s Infrastructure Development Department, while small and medium projects are implemented by the governments of Tbilisi’s districts.

In a January announcement of the infrastructure plans, Kaladze said, “The everyday routine of our work is a step-by-step approach to building a European, modern, orderly, comfortable and safe city…These are the issues we have accumulated over three decades, and each of us is puzzled. Of course, it is impossible to solve all the problems with one hand, but I am sure that we will solve everything with a united effort.”

Now that the Orbeliani Square renovation is completed, some of the major project remaining on the plan through 2020 includes the recently initiated renovation of Chavchavadze Ave., the ongoing renovation of the Dry Bridge and Saarbrucken Square area, renovation of Pirosmani, Gudiashvili, and Purtseladze streets, and a 110 million GEL ($40.15 mln) development of the Mtkvari River area.

“Every house on [Pirosmani] street is in a state of emergency,” Kaladze said in January. “Within the framework of the project, all this will be sorted, starting with underground communications which need to be entirely replaced and repaired. I'm sure local businesses will be involved in the process. The renovation works on Gudiashvili and Purtseladze streets are important projects that will be completed in 2020.”

In the 2015 interview, when Baidarashvili was asked what his ideal Tbilisi would look like, he responded, “It would be a city loved by people, in which each street, house, garden, square, entrance or elevator is an object that is handled just like our own homes... A place where people care for their city.” Looking at the already chipping paint, stained and graffitied facades, and broken sidewalks on streets renovated just a few years ago, such as Aghmashenebeli Ave., the question of city maintenance and public respect and care for infrastructure is still as relevant as ever.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Tbilisi City Hall

06 June 2019 18:02