Tensions in Plovdiv over Bulldozing of Cultural Heritage Building
The demolition of an old building once used to store tobacco in Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city, has topped the domestic news agenda for several days.
Despite being declared a cultural heritage building in 1977 and having become part of a cultural heritage area in 2000, a vast section of the building was demolished on Sunday, the end of a long weekend following the national holiday on March 03.
After an update to the cultural heritage registry, a mistake resulted in its exclusion from the list, but the building had been part of a protected group of monuments for fifteen years.
Artists, architects, and concerned citizens arrived at the site to protest against destruction shortly after the news emerged, preventing bulldozers from moving further to other sections.
As a result, part of the facade was saved, but some of the works of art - including frescoes - that had decorated the interior were completely destroyed.
Initially, Plovdiv's local authorities maintained no irregularities could be found in the decision to raze the tobacco warehouse. Plovdiv municipality claimed the building itself was not a cultural heritage site and was not part of a protected heritage area.
However, reports emerged later that the document, which it had received from the private owner, might be fake.
Plovdiv's Chief Architect Rumen Rusev is quoted by Dnevnik.bg as saying the document in question was submitted by the owners of the building as their construction permits were being processed, but does not comment on why local authorities did not double-check the information.
The Bulgarian National Television and Dnevnik.bg showed copies of a document from the Culture Ministry's cultural heritage institute revealing the warehouse was in its registry.
According to an architect formerly working with the cultural heritage institute, a technical mistake in 1985, which resulted in the registration of a building next to the warehouse as a heritage site, could have played into the hands of the owners, but did not free authorities of responsibility to protect a building that is part of a heritage area.
The owner has refused to comment publicly, but according to media reports initial plans were to build a ten-storey hotel at the site.
Plovdiv is to be European Capital of Culture in 2019, and the warehouses in the area (including the destroyed one), which belonged to the Orient Tobacco company, were included in the cultural program of the city and posed to turn into an art space following renovation works.
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