The Czechoslovak quarter in Uzhgorod is one of the many architectural attractions of the city. It is here where in the early 20th century, designers erected local government buildings, where the Transcarpathian Regional Council and the Regional State Administration are now situated. There is a cozy park nearby. Now, after several not entirely transparent land sale deals, a 12-storey "glass housing, commercial and office center" may grow near this ensemble
The new building is to be erected on the site of the parking lot on Hoyda street. Once, this territory in the historic center was prepared for the arrangement of a parking lot. But now, the parking lot has turned into a construction site, and the Mayor Victor Pogorelov has become a millionaire. What do deputies and officials have to do with it? And what will appear next to the Regional Council building – a monument of architecture?
Good-bye, parking lot!
In autumn 2014, the parking lot became empty. There were rumors that someone wanted to build something there.
All cars have suddenly disappeared from the parking lot. Photo made by the author
Meanwhile, a sketch of the possible building appeared on a thematic site.
The project to be built near the historic quarter. Illustration from the site skyscrapercity.com
It became known that the project was implemented by the developers working under the brand "Gazda" and having experience in construction. However, the sketch caused outrage among Uzhgorod residents, even those who know little about architecture. Because the developer suggested to build as much as 12 floors against the background of the six-storey architectural monument. The building, according to the plan, was to accommodate commercial and residential premises, a hotel, and an observation deck on the top. A collage showing how the historic ensemble of the city center may look like, if the new building is erected, was posted in social networks.
Activists showed how the new architectural ensemble may look like. Illustration of the community Transcarpathian Heritage
The city architect greenlights the construction
Should we raise the alarm? Is there a threat of distortion of the architectural heritage? The chief architect of Uzhgorod Mykhailo Ivehesh stated: the site of the potential construction – on Hoyda street, n / a – is located in the historic area of the city. At the same time he, as the acting head of urban planning and architecture department, issued the developer urban planning conditions and restrictions for land development, according to which, there are three stages of construction, two of which may have 8 and 12 floors.
But is such height harmonious with the buildings erected by Czechoslovaks in the early 20th century? The building of the Regional Council has 6 floors, the other buildings – 3 or 4 floors.
In Uzhgorod, the architect must first listen to the opinion of the Architecture and Urban Planning Board. Here is the list of people who advise which constructions in the city are appropriate, and which are not.
In June 2014, the board members for the first time discussed the sketch of the construction at the site of the parking lot. They recommended that "the height of the facade vertical part on the building line should be equal to the facade height of ordinary buildings of 1920s-1930s." And it is definitely not 8, let alone 12 floors.
In December 2014, the Architectural and Urban Planning Board reviewed the project again. And decided: the construction on the parking lot shall be allowed only after the approval of the new Master Plan of the city and completion of the historical and urban planning study.
The construction on the parking lot was also considered by the Advisory board on the protection of cultural heritage of the Transcarpathian Regional State Administration since Hoyda street is located near the monument of architecture – "the complex of historic buildings." According to the head of the Culture Department of the Transcarpathian Regional State Administration Yuriy Hleba, it was decided to reconsider the issue after the approval of the historical and architectural plan of Uzhgorod.
But, despite all those recommendations, the Chief Architect Mykhailo Ivehesh made the developers a gift for the New Year – on December 30, 2014, as already mentioned, he issued the urban planning conditions.
"We have no right to refuse to issue urban planning conditions if the land belongs to a private person – the Chief Architect says. – The only thing we can do is to restrict urban planning requirements or set the conditions under which they are issued. The first condition is that the height of the building must not cover the surrounding buildings. The second one is to agree the project with the Authority for protection of cultural heritage at the City Council and the Department of Culture of the Regional State Administration."
According to Mykhailo Ivehesh, the so-called "glass tower" was the only project that they had objections against, in particular, that it does not fit into the architectural ensemble. The developer must take this into account and correct it. The final project, which will be implamented, must again pass all approvals: by the chief architect, the Authority for protection of cultural heritage, the Department of Culture of the Transcarpathian Regional State Administration, and to obtain the opinion of the Ukrainian State Construction Expertise.
But will they obtain these approvals? Because currently there is neither new Master Plan of Uzhgorod, nor the approved historical and architectural plan of the city. It is an open question…
"Culture" authorities do not mind
The Authority for Protection of Cultural Heritage of Uzhgorod City Council is another board, which decides what decorates the city and what distorts it. On January 28, 2015 they also considered the issue of this construction. They concluded: "The land on which the construction is planned is part of the historical architectural ensemble of the central part of the city "complex of historic buildings "Small Halahov" and a part of its protected area."
However, the Authority for Protection of Cultural Heritage did not object against the construction too. But they made a remark – "subject to the requirements of current legislation in the field of cultural heritage protection."
The head of Culture, Sports, Youth and Family Department of Uzhgorod City Council Yevhen Bobrov says: the collective body for cultural heritage protection did not approve the 12-storey building. Because, according to him, at the meeting the Commission considered the sketch of the project, which takes into account the height of existing buildings. Yevhen Bobrov said that the final appearance of the building will be re-considered only after the project is approved by the chief architect of the city.
Get ready for construction
Meanwhile, the empty car parking lot is gradually becoming a construction site – workers are bringing rods, digging pits, delivering bricks, stretching film over the fence.
Islet of the future construction in the midst of the greenery that blossomed in the spring. Photo made by the author
The Deputy Chief of the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate in the region Yuriy Loshak informed: the statement of the commencement of the preparatory work on the "Construction of apartment buildings with commercial premises" was registered on February 26, 2015.
The representative of the site owner Stepan Gozda confirmed that the construction project has been changed and the company is willing to wait for all necessary approvals. He said: "In the first draft, it was a 12-storey building with an observation deck. But the urban planning board had remarks and we made changes accordingly. In the new draft, two heights are set: from Hoyda street – 3 floors, and from Sobranetska street – 6 floors. That was done, in order not to exceed the height of the neighboring building.
The new construction project, that is not yet approved, is already on the fence.
This project is offered by the developer now. The project is not yet approved by the supervisory authorities. Photo made by the author
Representatives of the company do not disclose the investors of the construction. So different names of local oligarchs are rumored in the city.
Architect – the author of the project – Oleksandra Vdovina is also a member of the architectural urban planning board. By the way, in the 1990s she served as the chief architect of Uzhgorod. Oleksandra Vdovina said that she had taken into account the historical and architectural conditions when developing the first version of the construction project. "I wanted to make emphasis on height. But now that the perception of people and architects has changed a little, I do not want this project anymore, and I think that now there should indeed be a proportional construction there" – the author noted.
In the second part of the investigation we will tell how the tidbit of land was transferred from municipal property into private; what the mayor has to do with it; how much money earned the city budget, and how much – the mayor’s family.