Essay: Cyprus – Nicosia – Core business district

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  • Cyprus - Nicosia - Core business district
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This paper will investigate the collective memory mechanisms which had affected by division and how that division had affected the core business district to move out of Nicosia’s Venetian walls.
Nicosia is the capital city of Cyprus where it is located at the eastern south side of Mediterranean Sea. The island is de facto divided since 1974 after the military action of Turkey. The city is separated in two ethno-national entities, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. The two ethnics were having always a chasm between them although after 1974 and especially after 1960 as it was the first separation of the two ethnics and the first exchange of population, this chasm became physical and call it “Green Line”. The Green line divides the island, the capital city and the city center in two pieces. After the division of the city center a new core business district redeveloped outside of the walls. The paper will investigate the way that the Green Line has affected the reconstruction of the core business district in the spatial context of Nicosia. The investigation will focus on the social part, the psychological effects the social memory of the conflicts, the fears, the feelings and the place where concentrated of people became abandoned. Locals abandoned the city center in the walls and turn their attention to the new CBD. However, the social part has effects also the politics and the economics as the Greek Cypriots did not want to give advantages to the Turkish Cypriots.
The new business center is the trend location for locals, this starts to concentrate people, tourists and investigations. The area became the new industry for the city, it changes the economy, the way that operates economically the city center. It is accommodating cafes, big brands shops and small malls. The paper will investigate how the reconstruction of the new core business center operates economically to the city. The reconstruction is offer new jobs to the unemployment foreign investigations and the physical reconstruction of the area, it was improved the infrastructure for better transportation and flow of movement. However, when the Cyprus became a member of EU in 2003 the CBD starts fall down and from alive area starts to be desert. The stores were rented expensive, although are isolated now because the “Nicosia’s Master Plan”. This Master Plan starts a few years later for the division around 1980-1990, when the two mayors of the city start to reunify the two city centers into the walls again. They tried to make more links to connect the two city center and they decrease the rents and starts to reconstruct the old town.
1st Chapter: The way the Green Line affects the society and the decision to redevelop the CBD out of the walls
Cyprus is wider known for its “Problem” of territorial and ethno-national division. Nicosia is the only divide European city since 1974. It is inhabited by Turkish and Greek Cypriots and approached by two “motherlands” Greece and Turkey. Cyprus was divided de facto the summer of 1974, when the Turkish troops land in the north side of the island. This military action was leading to the territorial partition and the exchanges of population which ensuing each side to be almost ethnically homogeneous. The southern side of the island was inhabited by Greek Cypriots and the north side by Turkish Cypriots. In Addition, the island was suffering by intercommunal conflicts for many years. The initial division of the island was in 1956 when British colonies decided to reduce the strife between the two entities. In 1960, the Cypriot government was achieved the independence agreement for the island as many of the Greek Cypriots wanted union (enosis) with Greece while Turkish Cypriots wanted separation (taksism). Three years later, in 1963, this independence agreement was the reason for interethnic conflicts once more in the spatial context of Nicosia and the Union Nation Peace Keeping Force established the “Green Line” in order to reduce the violence and in 1974 the island was divided once more and the Green Line extended from end to end but this time for permanent.
The Green Line is the physical barrier which segregate the socio-spatial context of Nicosia. It is the chasm between the two ethno-national entities. It has several names instead of Green line like no man’s land and Dead Zone which is more often called by Greek Cypriots. Even though, this piece of land divides the two ethnics and achieved the “peace” between them, consisting the Green line as a symbol of partition which attached the “Cyprus Problem”. The Green Line brings back memories from that “bloody” period, each side consider itself as a victim, people remember only the social conflicts, the fights, killings, displaced and missing. These memories construct the animosity framework and the peculiarity of the social context. The agenda of segregation interpreted by different perspectives from each ethno-national group. The socio-political scientist Yiannis Papadakis characterized the Green Line as a wall and identify that:
“A wall, for example, has two sides. For those on one side it may signify the protection of their rights and security, for those on the other side it may signify exclusion and the violation of their rights.”
Despite of Green Line reminds to the indigenous the past, Turkish Cypriots were willing to forget in order to unify the community and achieve a form of progress, some of them claimed that “history is going to be a lesson in order to move forward”. For them the division means something permanent and they prefer to let the “bloody” history in the past as opposed to the Greek Cypriots were hope to bring back to their pre-1974 homes. For understanding better the wider context of this physical boundary the southern side of the Green Line is constructed with barrels, sand bags and barbed wire in order to provide a visual connection without obstacles to the north side and to removed them easier in contrast the north’s side construction is a wall to prevent the visual contact. For Turkish Cypriots the capital city is “Lefkosha” they consider that “Lefkosia” is an another capital city of another country where spread next of the edges of their state. Although, they consider that this piece of land which separate them interprets a physical boundary to protect them from the Greek Cypriots attacks.
The period of exchange population Turkish Cypriots signify that the north side of the island will be their own state, their own permanent home the idea of something permanent and safe leads them to forget easily their pre-1974 villages where reminded negative experiences. North is their home, they do not feel refugees, they do not feel nostalgia for their previous life and places. On the other hand, the fact of exchange population costs to the Greek Cypriots who consider themselves at this point refugees in their own country. They had feeling the sense of nostalgia and they wanted to return back to their real homes. The officially policy of Greek Cypriots offered them place for staying but they will never consider that places as their permanent houses, neither the next generations. They remember their places, they consider that their homes are occupied. They used to talk about the two parts of capital city and they referred the southern side as “ free Nicosia” (eleutheri Lefkosia) and the northern side as “occupied Nicosia” (katahomeni Lefkosia).
They were acting based on their memories: whole community was associated with memories. Some sociologists and psychologists believed that memory is individual although all the memories were shaped by the collective context, the events, experiences, perceptions has its own unique projection to the individual and this is interacting with others individuals’ memories. Memory constructed the society framework of belief and behaviors because the projection of an adult depends on the community and community interact with the members. The three or may be four generations that are existing in the same place are interacting to each other inducing practical changes to everyday life and also affecting the collective and historic memory which are interpreting as its own history. In addition, post-conflict places such as Nicosia, memory is a critical component that affects the public life as well as the reconciliation of the place and in wider context the everyday life. Places mainly are based on memory which approached the connection of the residents with the history and their national identity. The architect and theorist Aldo Rossi identified the collective memory of the city and claimed that: “… the city itself is the collective memory of its people, and like memory it associated with objects and places. The city is the locus of collective memory”. Rossi named as locus the local divinity, the residents of the place who inhabited and control the everyday life of the site.
The variety of human experiences into the city are approaching the collective memory which is associating with the public life. Buildings, images, places and signs are part of the human experiences in an urban place. This physical experiences are reset and strengthen the relationship of place and history. In everyday life of the Nicosia’s city center is able to meet plenty of signs either by Greek Cypriot’s or by Turkish Cypriot’s side which are expressing the post-conflict history or sets limits about division. The author Papadakis in his writing claimed about signs, slogans where stigmatized the national memory, two slogans along the Green Line which related with the past. Greek Cypriots wrote in Greek “I DON’T FORGET” while Turkish Cypriots replied in their language “I DON’T FORGET THE SLAUGHTER EITHER”, the purpose of these two slogans were to reflect the historic memory of each side representing the national pain that caused by the intercommunal conflicts but the fact that the slogans were in their own languages and no one from each side can understood the meaning of them were not effecting the opposite side in contrast reflected back to them. These slogans, the spatial limits of Green Line and the images of the place are forming the social memory, these spaces are the narratives of their history. Michel de Certeau argues that:
”The space could be to the place what the word becomes when it is spoken: grasped in the ambiguity of being accomplished, changed into a term stemming from multiple conventions, utter as the act of one present (or on time), and modified by the transformations resulting from successive influences…”
The author, also, identified that “transforms places into spaces and spaces into places” is concluding to intersect with the daily activities which take place into the site manipulating its framework and organize the movement. Based on his theory and the theories above about the collective memory, the place interact with local factors impulse a local identity to the space as people are moving through them. Places had influenced not only by memories but also by time, all memories have affected the everyday practice and in the case of Nicosia the area is being forgetting by locals and this actual happens when established the Green Line.
Both sides see themselves as underprivileged, they focus on history, they cannot forget easily as the Turkish Cypriots tried to do as referred above. The social memory and the feeling of victimized is interpreted as threaten by each side, it is leading them to get measurements for their own security. They stop any link of communication – access, power, needs, opportunities- between them. This compensatory of communication between the two groups in terms of animosity cost to the social context because the urban area around the spatial segregation will reduces the opportunities of development. The spaces around the Green Line minimized the size of viable urban district either from the functional or the social point of view. Maybe it has the sense of protection by their perspective, although after the years this sense becomes an illusion because it was only an obstacle for evolution. The area reduced the access to municipal services, the roads, places of employment, medical facilities and in general the place is being forgetting.
In addition, the interethnic conflict and the animosity are the main reason for spatial segregation. A reasonable question now is what the residents of these kind of cities have to sacrifice for peace, because this problem of partition projecting interethnic intensity, clashes, class separations, animosity and ruining urban districts. So, social memory associates with the territorial segregation revers the economy of the city. The Green Line interrupt at least twenty streets and waste hundreds of buildings where located within or near of the Dead Zone, preventing the economic growth of the area. It was ruining the most vibrant places and consists them to inhabited by low in-come people, light industrial facilities and red light districts. For instance, “Soutsou Street” is a well-known on the Greek Cypriot side for its prostitutions network. A large portion of walled city center is inhabited by immigrants from East and Eastern Block (Soviet Union) who came from poor countries searching for permanent jobs and better life. Most of them are employees as domestic helpers or as workers and many of the women from Soviet Union enforce them to work in the prostitution networks.
The old city center is inhabited by foreigners and based on local confessions they avoid to be there because they consider the place as unsafe. They tried to be out of the walls especially at the Sundays when the immigrants have their day off and flanked on the old city’s streets. Some women said that it is uncomfortable to be in between the male immigrants, “they eat you with their eyes”. Also, some men consider the place unsafe because the crime that exist there, they claimed that “for fifty liras they can kill you”. Although immigrants are not the only reason, the place is left by locals after segregation and some places and constructions are abandoned, “It looks empty there’s no life there”, which looks like scary. All of these actors alienate the locals from the place. On the other hand, Huyssen defended that the city is the way that we think about and these thoughts shaping its image and the way we performed in it.
All in all, memory is a considerable critical component for a place, it is an endless resource which shapes the framework of projecting its history. Although, there are chooses for this case to remove, reform or expanded the place and this is the only way to reconstruct the collective memory, otherwise, the site and in further its history will remain the same and in the case of Nicosia’s city center isolated.
2nd Chapter: The Core Business Center and the change of Social life
The buffer zone is piercing the central area of the historic city transforming the physical barrier to no man’s land, this piece of lifeless land was a critical component for the following landscaping of the capital city. The Dead Zone was the main reason for the expanding urban development outside of the Venetian Walls, creating new residential areas for the refugees of the exchange population period, in 1963. The urban development outside of the walls had affected the future spatial quality of the city center decreasing the inhabitation of locals, abandoned spaces and buildings, social marginalization and decline the economic situation into the walled city. The first chapter investigates how the Green Line had affected the surrounding area and focus on the collective memory mechanisms which are significant for a research which deals with the daily practice of a post-conflict society. In addition, the reconstructing of urban area consisted the two entities to divide in two municipalities. The desire for sovereignty and the physical boundary that constructed along the historic city enforce them to expand their market area outside of the walls. The rehabilitation of the urban area consists the repeatedly public facilities which will services the needs of the two municipalities, for instance, the educational system and the commercial area. Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the next generations are growing up in two different states which do not approach to each other’s.
Division, social conflicts, and the alienation from the city’s core reduced the economy, although after the de facto separation it was decreased dramatically at 18%. Partition had disadvantages for the two entities, they lost accesses to important resources. However, the Greek Cypriots’ “state” was in privilege position as it was recognized by the independent agreement since 1960 which benefit the state earning foreign aid and international trade accelerating the economic growth at the end of the 1970s.
International and external aid enforce the island to move forward reducing the conflicts and assistant to the economic growth. Cyprus inhabited by Greeks and Turkish, it is rational to attached by the culture of the two motherlands, Greece and Turkey. Also, UK and USA were another external forces that offered to assist the critical situation. Turkey and Greece approached the national identity of the Cypriots which offered protection to their people from the conflicts, for the other countries were members of NATO, UK proposed for a strategic position into the island that prevents the national conflict and USA’s agenda was the surveillance access and military installation into the island. Furthermore, international institutions supplied enormous amounts of money for benevolent assistance and financing projects for economic and social purposes.
On the other hand, in 1983, Turkish Cypriots requested for an independent state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but it was rejected by the international organizations instead of Turkey. For the international bodies the island is recognized as Republic of Cyprus and the majority have the control of the state. As a result, Greek Cypriots denied to co-operate with the stateless TRNC announcing international embargo. This was the crucial point for the Turkish Cypriots’ economy who were living into the poverty as opposed to the Greek Cypriots who enjoyed their economic development.
This paper will investigate the urban development around the walls and the core business districts on both sides and the way that works on the socio-economic and spatial structure. As both sides were expanded their suburban area including the core business districts where located around of the Venetian walls, the northern commercial area was developed at the north side of the Kerinia Gate and consists schools, a library, buildings for public services and the residential area which spreads until the Nicosia’s central bus station. For the southern core business area the Makarios Avenue and the Stasikratous street are the most busy places of the city where young people concentrate there for leisure and shopping. However, the business center and the residential area around of it were constructed before the de facto segregation and still continues to expanded by building new houses, the continuing planning of the city were expanded the territorial limits of the capital city. All of these constructions started at the end of 1960s where planning policy in terms of modernity demolished the old buildings and replaced them with skyscrapers and massive residential structures. Both sides allow the modern development to cover the largest part of the urban area ignoring the traditional architecture in terms of attracting tourists and leading the place to be capitalized.
At the southern side the residential area was a significant matter, planners were focusing on the spatial design based on their data of the buildings’ density, the proper high level and the volume of the building. Urban planning is able to control and classify the design of the space in order the residential area which developed around of the commercial area to regulate the levels of labor. This has as a result the improvement of infrastructure and the build environment for achieving better communication with the CBD which is aiming to control the level of collective profits to the surrounding area. Similarly, the case of Nicosia’s suburban is related with the idea of Harvey who referred to the Marxist economists and describe the urban form as an outcome of the “circuits of capitalism”, in these urban areas a lot of investigations are taking place.
The core business district is the element into the capital city which presents the daily practice of locals and their working day. The time that they spend for work or leisure is matters because is the way to figure out how many hours they are working per day or per week, how many days they have for holidays. These are details which are significant for the economic process of the city because that details are the measurements for analyzing its profit. Time is not the only element that it is matter, space is equivalent with time, as space is responsible for investments, profits and the commercial area, the accesses, the enough public and private space for stakeholders, it represents the property, the resources everything which can related with it. Its classification of the space is defined the activities and these activities are part of the capitalization. Activities are attracting people and “people come where people are.” This point of view, determined the sociological and the spatial relations of urban which influenced by the capitalism.
City is like a system that works and function in interrelated ways and can analysed by different theoretical ideas which can explained the functionality of its economy. Although, the system of the city should be cohesive among their different fields. Therefore, the following research will show that Nicosia’s system does not contain harmony or cohesion as its lack of connection between its parts and the different economic situations of the two entities. Zetter analysed the structure of Nicosia and claimed that:
“In the 1980, land development has come to occupy a significant and important position in the culture of the island, and it is the failure of the market which has given rise to the current problems of land development, respect for private ownership, together with the loose planning control and the effective working of the land market, has inhibited clandestine processes of urban development. In this context, the land market instability the increasing land values in the districts surrounding the central core, and the very large supply of parcellated residential plots within and beyond the fringes of the city have helped the city gain an unconsolidated structure through leap-frogging existing administrative and built-up areas boundaries.”
In a related vein, Anna Casaglia make her research by interviewing locals about the urban development in Nicosia’s suburban. Both sides encounter almost the same problems, one of the aspects for the rapidly intention of urbanization caused to the exchange of population and the immigrants as referred above. Around of 35.000 Greek Cypriots left their places at the north side and this residential development at the suburban was one of the main reason to reconstruct the core business area out of the walls because the new housing development attracted new investments. In a different perspective this urbanization resulted the opposite outcomes according to a local town planner who identified for a second partition after 1974. He referred to the seven municipalities that existed in the southern side of the capital city compromising the economic conditions of the historic city, as they increased more and more their population.
Almost the same problems had the northern side by dealing the problem of immigrants, a large amount of Turkish people came to the Turkish Cypriot state to enhance its population and economy by covering the agricultural and industrial places of work that Greek Cypriots left behind during the exchange period. Moreover, Turkish military settled to the island providing protection to the state changing the social core. All of these aspects are responsible for the change of social and economic structure of the old city by enforcing the indigenous to abandoned the historic city as the Turkish immigrants did not have the same vision with the Turkish Cypriots who aimed to establish a new modern and affordable state. Also, the lack of recognition and the economic embargo consists Turkey to control all over the aspects that referred above and leading as well to partition in many municipalities.
Both primary and secondary municipalities are control their territorial limits and function independently avoiding any kind of link to each other and preventing the access in the important sources and services. The development of municipalities, the improvement of infrastructure, services and the establishment of commercial area enforce the expansion of the city leading the functionality of the municipals incapable as it is already. The town planning policy focus on the economic process and the spatial development of the city ignoring the future social impacts will influence the social structure. Some sociologists defined that post-conflict societies should focus on the improvement of social structure than the development programs of the city. The authors Alpar Atun and Doratli identified that:
“The hard border, a tangible and impermeable barrier between the two sides, resulted in the creation of different social and economic spaces on each side of the “wall”, despite the physical proximity of the two sides. The division has heavily determined the subsequent functioning of the urban structure”
The aim for the urban planning is the reconstruction of the divided city offering welfare in terms of spatial quality and economic growth in order to provide as much as possible social well-being to the two entities. However, these conditions are working differently in other cities without to divide the social and physical context. In the case of divided cities this planning is seems impossible because planners associated with the better outcome for the majority and this is the safest way to avoid the opposite.
3rd Chapter: Cyprus as EU member
After the de facto partition in 1974, Nicosia divided in two pieces which administrated by different municipalities, different services, two totally independent states lying next to each other. This has as result the amputation of the social structure into the historic city with consequences to its economy. Urban planners were prioritized the urban structure in order to achieve social rehabilitation but based on the research above it was only disturb the healthy development of the city’s structure.
At the end of 1970s the two municipalities had a number of problems about the common infrastructure as they did not know how to manage the water supply where it was from the opposite side or the electricity. So, local planners started a master plan for the city’s benefits, experts from both sides cooperated in order to produce a common urban plan which enhance the sewerage system and the common infrastructure. However, this cooperation was leading to the agreement for the urban master plan of the capital city in terms of negotiates and balance the socio-economic factors.
At 1990s, the Strategic Development Plan was promoting a sustainable development plan of the urban into the spatial planning system. This was the Master Plan of Nicosia. The two elected heads of the city from both sides already started a project of redevelopment. The mayor of the Greek Cypriot side used a metaphor about the structure of the city and claimed that:
“In brief, it can go on like, a man who has one leg or one hand or one eye, he doesn’t die, the body lives, but he has difficulties. It is not a natural body, [it is] something that requires artificial limbs, a lot of patience and courage.”
The aim of the project of Master Plan is to improve the urban landscape of the interior area of the Venetian Walls, bringing back the old city center to the indigenous, creating a bi-communal area. They tried to achieve communication of the two sides by improving the quality of the space and the commercial axis where were connecting with the checkpoints, that allows a freely movement between the two entities. This project were funding from the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations Center for Human Settlement since 1979 when it start it until 2001. Hazem Abu-Orf investigates this project of Master Plan by the communication perspective, he argues that: “planning is a social process and the understanding of communication draws on the social construction of meanings.”
The structure of walled cities aimed to protect the settlement and the commercial area, the economic wealth, of the city like the Medieval cities. The success for economic development inside the walls is to install permanent settlements which protects the space and the local businesses from the external threats providing the better quality of social life. In the case of divided cities army took a crucial part of the peace social practice. They are acting like Akrites who had settlements along the boards to protect them by the treats in Byzantine Empire, may be if indigenous were inhabited around the buffer zone perhaps they will prevent the territorial decay and they will enhance to the economic development.
The intentionally increase of urban scale accelerates the division in-between the neighborhoods the classes consisting marginality between the units. Anna Casaglia in her research about Nicosia identified the negative outcome that have the expanding of urban limits out of the walls. She investigates the residential areas around the walled city and she interview residents in terms of her research who complain about the urban scale and the municipalities that appeared because the city’s scale.
The size and the scale of the city has a significant matter for the healthy urban life. Thomas More presents an ideal urban model which referred that residents are the focal point for a peaceful urban life and its size is critically related because it accelerated the control of city’s territories.
The geographer Robert D. Sack in his writing of “Human Territoriality” identified three main uses in relation of territory, “classification, communication and control”. He also said that:
“Territoriality in humans is best understood as a spatial strategy to affect, influence, or control resources and people, by controlling area…”
Edward Soja claimed that:
“a behavioral phenomenon associated with the organization of space into spheres of influence or clearly demarcated territories which are made distinctive and considered at least partially exclusive by their occupants or definers.”
“[Social life is] visual in diverse and counterintuitive ways […]. Objects and buildings carry meanings through visual means just like images […], visual enquiry is no longer just the study of the image, but rather the study of the seen and the observable.”
Usually residents of divided cities attempts to consider the conditions of violence as the major problem of the urban dissolution which leading to the territorial partition in terms of their security. Benvenisti defended that “strive to concretize the dichotomy by creating dual physical and social environment”. Division is the way to achieve the process of security either to the space or the residents’ physical integrity. The author Roger Zetter analyzed the townscape of Nicosia at the decade of 1980s, he claimed that the city did not have a cohesive urban planning because the rapid urban development considering that the “new” commercial area did not have a clear connection with the rest of the city.

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