has turned Republic Square into rubble.
The hot air of August is made thicker by a city
being reconstructed. Passersby on any street in
the center of Yerevan move as if playing some
game: One step, then another, then a leap across
a ditch or a hole or a stack of blocks, to land
covered in dust.
From the Circus to the Cascade, from Mother Armenia
to Vardan Mamikonyan -- all in between and beyond,
Yerevan is broken to bits. Weary pedestrians are
promised that their paths will be put back together
by autumn. But the process makes this a summer
of discontent for anyone trying to get anywhere
in the center.
It started last summer when the Lincy Fund's
$85 million repair project got underway. And this
summer, the paving and patching and cementing
includes re-doing much of that work that didn't
survive the harsh winter.
Not even the city's favorite cooling off spot
has been spared, as one fine day this spring,
the hammers began to fall on Republic Square.
Once the busiest place in the city, the square
has been stricken with paralysis and the best
anyone can do is pray for a speedy recovery.
"Since construction of the square started
we have been in a terrible situation," says
minibus driver Ashot. "Every day passengers
are cursing us as the roads are closed and construction
works don't allow us to drive them directly to
their destinations. And as a result our vehicles
are getting damaged from numerous by-passes and
passengers exhaust our patience as a result of
being taken to other places."
From sunflower seed sellers to businessmen, the
makeover of the square is not a pretty thing for
"Everybody says on TV that it is great our
square is being reconstructed but nobody thinks
how much damage people working there experience,"
says an elderly woman whose income is selling
packs of sunflower seeds at 25 drams (about 5
cents) per pack. "Before, we could earn enough
for satisfying everyday needs as different events
were organized on the square and young people
were just walking around there in the evenings.
Now everything has finished and I have to wander
around the city with these seeds in my hands."
Hotel Armenia is probably the hardest hit business.
In summers past, the hotel patio has been a gathering
place for tourists and locals taking lunch meetings.
This summer, it is a gathering place for noisy
generators, jackhammers and the necessary madness
of rushing a major construction site to completion.
"Maybe next year everything will be very
beautiful. I have nothing against that, however,
who will think about the great losses that I've
suffered this year," says the general manager
of Hotel Armenia, Anil Sampat. "As a result
of construction we lost both café business
and hotel business. People can't move. Who's going
to be responsible for all of that?
"We have the possibility of waiting till
next year (to recover lost business), but what
can these small cafés and restaurants do?
All of this will probably have destructive effects
Armenia is not happy to see its outside
cafe turned into a parking lot for heavy
At a press conference last Friday Minister of
Trade and Economic Development Karen Tchshmarityan
said that the Lincy Fund's overall reconstruction
of Yerevan would contribute to tourism growth
Sampat (brought here by Marriott five years go)
says that in any other country, such major work
is carefully planned in advance to re-route transportation
and accommodate businesses effected by the work.
And he added that in most places, the work would
have been done in stages, rather than destroying
an entire section of the city at once.
"Nobody informed us in advance that such
huge construction works were planned," Sampat
says. "Nobody invited us to participate in
any discussions, taking into account the fact
that we are also a part of this territory.
"If we had been informed in advance, of
course our business wouldn't have changed but
in that case, at least we would have psychologically
been prepared. Anyway, it would be right to conduct
the works by stages. In this case authorities
do everything like it was during Soviet times
when everything belonged to the government and
there was no private sector to suffer losses in
situations like this."
The hotel manager says Hotel Armenia has offered
guests special deals to account for the inconvenience
caused by the construction. However:
"People, who prefer Hotel Armenia don't
expect big discounts. They want comfort both in
the hotel and outside the hotel. And that's why
there were people who simply refused to stay in
our hotel because of the construction project
on the square."
Sampat says that investors will avoid investing
money when they see a situation like this and
tourists will choose different places when they
see that almost half of the city is ruined. Museums
and cultural centers are also under construction.
"Anyway, before launching such works, the
government should have thought about those private
organizations which pay taxes," Sampat says.
"We are properly paying all taxes, but for
what? This year we've got no business. Officials
must at last understand that private organizations
won't be able to pay taxes if they lose their
business. Besides, in a situation like this organizations
will have to reduce their personnel and people
will lose their jobs."
Salbe Ohanyan manages Day to Day gift shop on
Amiryan Street and has seen her souvenir business
suffer this summer.
the summer of broken sidewalks, everybody
needs a little help getting from here to there.
"Many things have changed as a result of
construction works and, of course, they have changed
for the worse," she says. "Before we
always knew that especially summer months are
the most profitable for this business as there
were many tourists walking on the square visiting
such shops. These days the picture has completely
changed and in case everything continues the way
it is now we will probably find ourselves in an
unenviable position. We keep our shop open till
late night to make our business a little bit more
active, however, it doesn't save our situation
And at the square's usually-popular restaurant
Pizza di Roma, it has been a hungry summer.
Armen, a cashier at the restaurant says that
usually this time of year, customers sometimes
have to wait to get a table. But this year:
"The construction project has changed everything.
People even don't believe that the square will
be so beautiful that it will cover all the losses."
Arsen Alekyan, manager of Pizza di Roma says
that compared to other summers, nobody is coming
to his restaurant.
"We can't do anything," Alekyan says.
"Maybe we will seize the occasion to do some
construction works ourselves, as we have no other
choice. Let everything be finished and let's wait
to see what will be in the end."