On Wednesday, the Yerevan authorities began demolishing an open-air market as part of the redevelopment of a neighboring downtown neighborhood. This redevelopment encounters strong resistance from local residents and traders.
The market, located a few hundred meters from the Republic Square in Yerevan, has existed since the early 1990s. Hundreds of people have sold cheap clothes and other consumer goods on the narrow Firdousi Street, Which runs through the neighborhood, mainly composed of old houses.
In 2007, the Armenian government authorized a private company to demolish the entire area in order to build high-end offices and apartments. The global financial crisis, which hit the building sector in Armenia very hard, put these projects on hold. And the company in question, Glendale Hills, went bankrupt two years ago.
Last year, the Yerevan mayor’s office announced that another private developer was interested in the project and began preparations for demolitions, provoking demonstrations organized by the owners of several dozen houses district. The market traders also joined the demonstrations, considering that the municipality deprived them of their means of subsistence.
The municipality has offered merchants commercial space in other markets in Yerevan. Most of them rejected this offer, saying they would have to pay higher rents and suffer a loss of income.
On Wednesday morning, officials from the municipality and the workers sent by the developer met with strong resistance from traders when they arrived to begin demolitions. They did not come to the end of the resistance until the demolition machines arrived.
The traders protested angrily, while their stalls and small warehouses were destroyed within hours that followed.
For the moment, the houses on Firdousi Street have been spared by the demolition. Their owners fear that the authorities are preparing the ground to force them to sell their homes at a fraction of their value.
Some residents also complained that representatives of the construction company had still not contacted them to discuss the amount of compensation that would be paid to them. Even the name of the company has not been revealed by the municipality so far.
On Wednesday, Armenian human rights activist Arman Tatoyan asked the municipality to suspend the demolitions until traders are moved to other markets.
Claire © armenews.com