Sofia: Big construction plans galore

Written by on January 27, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Sofia: Big construction plans galore

Big construction projects look a lot better than extreme air pollution issues. Sofia Municipality recently had numerous boulevards repaired. Now they want to see what 40 million leva (20.4 million euro) will get them in the very centre of the city.

There are two projects. First, renovations around the parliament building, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sveta Sofia Church and Vassil Nevski Square will be done.

At this stage, the large square around the big cathedral, the main sightseeing spot in Sofia, is basically a huge parking lot. It remains to be seen whether the city will come up with a more attractive idea. So far, no specific renovation plans have been released.

Things are different regarding the other bold refurbishment project the Mayor’s office is planning. This one concerns Graf Ignatiev Street, along with the Book Market and the square around the Church of Sveti Sedmochiselintsi.

Graf Ignatiev Street badly needs a refurbishment. 

This project will change the face of the city. “Regions in Growth” is the title of the EU programme which will give Sofia Municipality the funds to implement it.

Graf Ignatiev Street is one of the central shopping streets in Sofia. It also connects the very centre of the city with Vassil Levski Stadion and the metro station next to it. Part of the street is a pedestrian zone used by trams as well.

Watchmakers, a pharmacy, several pubs, an outdoor vegetable market, language schools and countless clothing stores are located here. One of the two book shops on this stretch recently closed. A tattoo studio is offering its services as well.

The construction project on Graf Ignatiev Street will start this summer. Initially it was supposed to be implemented a year ago, and it concerns the part between Garibaldi Square and Vassil Levski Boulevard.

Before (left) and after (right). This is how the municipality envisioned Slavejkov Square last year.

Right now, the state of the street is bad. The concrete around the tram tracks, which has been there since communist times, is falling apart. So is the pavement. Pedestrians trip on a regular basis. Also, this street might have this Eastern European charm tourists might be looking for, but it completely lacks another important element, which is beauty.

The square at the Church of Sveti Sedmochiselintsi is attractive for dogs, who run around on the big lawn on which they also do their dumps. A nice little playground is there as well. But again, the square could indeed use a makeover, which might make it more beautiful.

Regarding the book market on Slavejkov Square, a big discussion started a year ago, when Sofia Municipality first said it wanted to get rid of the book stalls. Then, in April, Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said the stalls would stay. It is unclear whether this statement is still valid today.

But Slavejkov Square, dominated by McDonald’s and the books, is supposed to look different and more modern. The new version of it might have some more room for pedestrians too.

In 2017, Sofia Municipality also wanted to increase the number of trees in that area, from 303 to 463. Where they counted that many trees in the very city centre, is a mystery to some. But trees are more important that ever, because of the air pollution crisis Sofia is facing.

At this stage, Slavejkov Square, a popular meeting place, is the ideal spot to have a Big Tasty Menu with Fries and a Coke, to learn French at the Institut Français, or to look through those used English, French and German books offered at some of the stalls. Unfortunately, some of the booksellers there put fascist literature on display.

Tourists also look at the fountain which was sealed after a young man was electrocuted there and died on the spot, when he put his hand in the water in 2005. A very sad story. It is unclear whether the fountain will stay or disappear.

What is certain is that the very centre of Sofia will look different next winter, once that big construction project is completed.




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