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February 13, 2004


Street Fighting: Residents say they are paying the price of Yerevan 's prestige landmark


Residents are posting their protests.

When the idea of constructing North Avenue was first announced publicly, the then Mayor of Yerevan, Robert Nazaryan, told journalists: “No matter what we do, we will face criticism.”

The mayor's prediction has been borne out fully in the two years since then, with criticism rising to dissatisfaction then to indignation and finally into daily protests during the past month by hundreds of tenants whose homes are being demolished to create North Avenue.

Projected for completion in 2006, North Avenue was part of city architect Alexander Tamanyan's general plan for Yerevan to connect Opera Square and Republic Square. When finished, the modern thoroughfare will provide a 450 meter promenade lined with restaurants, stores and apartments.

The city authorities have already cleared 27,000 square meters of the 63,000sq.m of the future avenue and 220 families have received compensation to find other homes. However, the remaining 260 families still have to strike agreements, a process complicated by the general surge in property prices over the past year. (See previous story)

Residents of Pushkin, Teryan, Lalayants, and Abovyan streets claim that officials of “ North Avenue and Cascade”, a state non-profit organization that is in charge of the project, have offered them compensation that is between only a third and a half of what they expected. They are also unhappy that they are required to pay a 10 per cent sales tax on their compensation to the state budget.

Protests have become a daily occurence.

Residents who own their properties are currently offered between $250 and $400 per square meter, depending on the condition of the building. Rights to commercial lots on the completed avenue are being sold at auction soon after, however, for $1,000 per square meter.

Residents of buildings which have not been privatized are being offered $2,500 for each person in the family if they agree to surrender their residence permits and move out.

Vergine Hovsipyan lives in Teryan 12 as a non-owning resident. Hovsipyan, 60 who lives alone and has no family, says she might find herself on the street.

“I lived in that house for 50 years. Now at the amount they suggest me, $2,500 will not buy a tiny room in the most remote part of Yerevan ,” she says.

Other residents complain that the officials do not properly calculate their property.

“I own 330sq. m with a house and a yard, but I am offered only $54,000,” says Lalayants resident Lida Abgaryan. “It means that they calculated one square meter at $160.”

The residents' protests are not causing any changes in policy. However, Sergey Bayburtyan was dismissed last week from his position as executive director of the “ North Avenue and Cascade”. The City Council, which is managing the construction project, refused to comment on his dismissal.

“It does not matter why Bayburtyan was dismissed,” says Felix Afyan, one of the deputy directors. “We are here and another deputy has taken the position of director and we are trying to solve all problems.”

Residents complain that officials don't accurately calculate their property..

The main problem they face now is that residents who have rejected the compensation offer are refusing to leave their homes. The construction plans assumed that the site would be cleared several months ago. The residents are fighting back, however, by setting up a campaign headquarters and mounting round-the-clock watches of their properties to prevent what they consider to be illegal seizures.

The residents have appealed to the National Assembly to pass a law creating an independent body that would decide how much should be paid for citizens' property.

Around 100 residents have already appealed to the courts, mostly without success. The courts declare that residents must leave their homes or be evicted and some have already been forcibly removed.

Afyan says the City Council has initiated a special commission headed by the Chief Architect Narek Sargsyan to re-examine each resident's case.

“We will launch a system of price incentives and the residents will be offered a higher amount,” Afyan says. “The non-owners will be offered an additional $4,000.

“The commission decided first to hear the cases involving the elderly, disabled, single mother families, and people in need.”

But residents who have already been heard by the commission say they were offered nothing new. They demand that independent realtors be called in to value their properties.

Afyan says: “The Government has entrusted the valuation of properties on the territory of North Avenue to the “Artin” company, which decided on the amount we offer to residents.”

Several commercial companies such as North Island , Soglasie Armenia and Mercator have started construction on the North Avenue .

Advertisements are already appearing in local newspapers offering “elite houses” on the avenue for $950 per square meter and from $2,000-$2,200 for commercial premises such as restaurants and cafes.

Meanwhile, the residents continue to press for a doubling of the compensation they receive. Some are threatening to begin a hunger strike in support of their demands.


According to Agnes
 

  Inside
 

Street Fighting: Residents say they are paying the price of Yerevan 's prestige landmark.

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You wait 12 years for a baby and then three come along at once...Karina Maisuradze-Gevorkyan became the proud mother of triplets, two girls and one boy, on February 5 at Yerevan's Maternity Research Center. Karina had been trying to have a child for 12 years without success before approaching the center and undergoing fertility treatment.

 

 

 





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