City Centre Vision Stalls
An ambitious plan to revitalise Bucharest looks set to be grounded after the city council abruptly terminated the contract of the company, Spanish owned Sedesa, tasked to renovate 14 key streets in the historic city centre. For the time-being residents and visitors to the capital will have to continue to navigate their way across make-shift wooden walkways propped over open half dug ditches, while businesses wait anxiously for news about how the work will continue. Some have already given in to the inevitable and shut up shop, as they have seen their business dry up and fear that the future will now only get worse.
A spokesperson for the City Council confirmed last month that Sedesa's six year contract has now been ended. However, digging deeper (ahem) the situation is more complex than just the run of the mill inadequacies of a private contractor. An immediate issue has been that Sedesa unearthed archaeological objects during works leading the City Council to order Sedesa to halt evacuation so that it could assess the finds - something that it appears not yet to have done. However, some critics of the Council's handling of the projects point out that the real problem has been that the Council lacks a fundamental overall approach and long-term vision for the city. They say that there are too few people at City Hall dedicated to managing the plans full-time and that the Council's approach to the revitalisation remains piece-meal. On contacting City Hall, one local journalist was told not to worry about the renovations, as they would be completed 'within his life-time'.
Others blame the fiasco on the construction boom that has engulfed Eastern European cities over the last decade and that in the rush for cash and kudos, both city councils and private companies have ignored the normal regulations and building considerations and ploughed on too quickly - resulting in a crisis. Even western companies that may operate more consciously on home-soil have been accused of paying scant attention to proper procedures when operating in the East.
The Council has now stated that it intends to re-tender the renovation of the remaining 10 areas on a street-by-street basis, which could result in 10 different private companies carrying out works. Local business leaders are understandably concerned how such an approach would be coordinated and that the city could emerge as infested with a muddle and contradiction of styles.
For the moment visitors to the city, known as 'Little Paris', could do worse than packing a pair of wellies, along with the sun shades and cream, in the unfortunate event of a muddy slip.