Twelve-storey buildings in Batumi center to be demolished
Batumi City Hall is planning to demolish five 12-storey buildings near Shota Rustaveli Dramatic Theatre, on Sandro Akhmeteli street (Nos.1, 3, 5, 7 and 9). In an unofficial conversation with the inhabitants, the representatives from the Batumi Municipality have cited the dilapidated condition of the buildings as the reason for demolition. However, according to the buildings’ inhabitants, the buildings were built 35 years ago and the amortization term hasn’t run out yet. There are no visible cracks or fractures on the walls. The residents cite another reason for the planned demolition: the buildings don’t fit into Old Batumi’s architectural landscape.
The inhabitants told TI Georgia staff that Goga Lomidze, the head of Batumi’s property management department, openly stated to them that the buildings are unappealing and he doesn’t like them. Mr. Lomidze has promised to provide alternative spaces on Khimshiashvili street in the so-called ‘SubtropicCity’ appartment complex located 4-5 kilometers from the city center to inhabitants of the buildings slated for demolition. The inhabitants refuse to accept these alternative spaces and are against the demolition of their homes. If the unappealing facade is the main motive for demolition, the inhabitants request the respective City Hall departments to carry out renovation works so the buildings fit into Old Batumi’s landscape.
In a conversation with TI Georgia, Mr. Lomidze stated that negotiations with the inhabitants will begin only after the City Hall issues a final decision on the demolition of the buildings. At that time, the inhabitants will be able to register their property at the public registry, so that reimbursement for the seizure can occur based on registered data.
The inhabitants do not agree that the appearance of their homes, however inconsistent with their surroundings they may be, is a valid reason for demolition, and consider their property rights violated. The organic law on “the Rule of Confiscating Private Property in Cases of Public Need” does not include a provision allowing the state to exercise the power of eminent domain based on a building’s appearance.
TI Georgia sent a letter to the Batumi City Hall to get official information on the status of these buildings. The City Hall responded that they do not have any demolition projects planned since they do not possess property rights on the buildings in question. They also noted that there are no construction projects planned for the space that would be vacated if the demolitions were to proceed.
Since there has been no administrative act issued by any body, the inhabitants are unable to protect their rights through the court and are left in an uncertain situation. Transparency International Georgia will continue to observe this case by providing legal consultations to the inhabitants and monitoring the case for any developments. We hope that any efforts to achieve architectural uniformity in Old Batumi will be carried out in conformity with the law, and with the interests of its residents in mind, and will not violate the legal property rights of the inhabitants.