The investors in the controversial project in Plovdiv that has seen a historic tobacco warehouse, meant to be protected as a cultural monument, partly demolished say that all their actions so far “have been guided and will continue to be guided by the law”.
The March 6 demolition work on the 8 Odrin Street building in Plovdiv’s “Tobacco Town” led to public outrage, an order from national authorities to halt the demolition and a pre-trial investigation by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office.
In a statement, the investors said that their actions would continue to be guided by law, in dialogue with state institutions and for the sake of implementing good projects in Plovdiv that create business development and jobs.
“At the same time, we understand the sensitivity of Plovdiv residents to buildings of architectural and historical value and therefore categorically state that our company is an investor that has the respect towards and experience regarding buildings that are monuments of culture,” the statement said, pointing to various previous projects that the company had worked on in the city.
The statement said that in the same way, the company had responsibly approached the 8 Odrin Street building. The company said that the building was “not a monument of culture” but in the project set up in 2010, provision had been made the architectually interesting facade.
The company stated its “firm intention” to continue active dialogue with the state institutions and the public and said that it supported the efforts by Plovdiv municipality to clarify the situation and the request for the necessary documents from the Ministry of Culture and Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage “because we are convinced that the municipal administration and the chief architect have acted solely within the law”.
Plovdiv news website podtepeto.com said that the owners of the 8 Odrin Street building had put up an information sign at the site.
According to the sign, the start of work at the site was March 1, though the sign does not specify a completion date. It states the date of issue of the construction permit as January 6 2014 – the date that the Ministry of Culture sent a letter to Plovdiv municipality saying that the building had, as Bulgarian law terms it, immovable cultural value status.
The site also said that an interior design for what documentation made public says is intended to be a Hilton hotel on the site was done by Proarch, the architectural firm of former Sofia chief architect Petar Dikov. The artists’ impressions depict designs for the lobby, restaurants and rooms.
Meanwhile, at a Plovdiv city council meeting on March 17, a group of protesters sat with duct tape over their mouths as a silent protest against the events around the 8 Odrin Street site.
The group had asked to use a hall for a news conference on cultural debate in Plovdiv but had been asked for a fee of 70 leva. One of the protesters took off his baseball cap and attempted a cash collection among city councillors, of whom most refused to donate, according to podtepeto.com.
Local media quoted Plovdiv mayor Ivan Totev as having, on March 14, likened the 8 Odrin Street case to a “Turkish soap opera” whose characters and writers wanted to give Plovdiv a bad name.
According to Totev, behind the criticism of Plovdiv municipality was a campaign against its status as European Capital of Culture 2019, and amendments to the Cultural Heritage Act which enable municipalities to control everything related to cultural heritage on its territory. The National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage has opposed these amendments, which have been approved by Parliament at first reading.