UNDP and Municipality of Yerevan Join Efforts to Beautify Yerevan
Yerevan is gifted with rich historic and cultural monuments. Their maintenance and preservation rests with the Municipality of Yerevan. In fact, the decentralization process in Armenia led to an increased autonomy of the municipality and vital responsibilities regarding urban development - construction, major and current repair of residential, non-residential buildings of social importance - fall under the municipality.
However, the historical and cultural heritage of Yerevan, as well as the urban infrastructure, has suffered unfair treatment and negligence due to insufficient funding and investments by public and private owners. Unkempt facades and parks, poor street lighting and paving conditions, broken street furniture and neglected children’s playgrounds are not unusual in Yerevan. Unattractive city environment together with poor condition of historical and cultural landmarks are often serious obstacles to community development and investment flow.
- The ‘Beautiful Yerevan’ project is not only complementing the ongoing municipal activities in the area of urban development, but it brings a new dimension to it – building the technical skills of unemployed and enrolling them in temporary employment schemes, as well as learning from UNDP best practices in this area.
- UNDP and the Municipality of Yerevan are convinced that targeted interventions will support the preservation of cultural and historical heritage in the capital, enhancing the tourism opportunities and socio-economic development of Yerevan.
In 2011, UNDP Armenia, in partnership with the Municipality of Yerevan, decided to rejuvenate the heart of Yerevan through interventions in refurbishing and painting of buildings, repairing of streets and sidewalks, and recuperating of green areas. As to the funding, the parties agreed to share the costs of the project – each pledging USD 285,000. The idea is to regenerate the urban environment in Yerevan, thus making the city more attractive place to live, visit and work. “The ‘Beautiful Yerevan’ project is not only complementing the ongoing municipal activities in the area of urban development, but it brings a new dimension to it – building the technical skills of unemployed and enrolling them in temporary employment schemes, as well as learning from UNDP best practices in this area,” said Vigen Chatinyan, head of Coordination of International Investment Unit at Yerevan Municipality.
In addition, UNDP and the municipality want to address the increasing unemployment caused by the collapse of the construction sector in Armenia and Yerevan, in particular, after the 2008 global crisis that hardly hit the country. The semi-skilled unemployed labor force will get a temporary relief as, after relevant training, they are enrolled in the urban rehabilitation and refurbishing processes, with the aim of later enrollment in the private construction sector. “This initiative is very timely. During the initial phase we managed to hire 25 workers and this number will increase, once the project enters its full implementation phase. We are really happy that we have a chance to develop our professional and technical skills after being unemployed for a long time due to the impact of the 2008 crisis,” stressed Alik Yeghiazaryan, the chief constructor overseeing the process.
The concept of targeted urban renewal and social inclusion to generate employment is not new. Successful practices in other countries have proven its high potential to bring multilateral effects. UNDP Armenia was inspired by “Beautiful Bulgaria” project - one of the very successful examples of urban renewal. The project that started back in 1997 as a small pilot initiative in Sofia was later expanded to the 10 largest cities of Bulgaria, funded by the EU and major bilateral donors. In 2001, the “Beautiful Bulgaria” project was transformed into a national programme with funding from the central and local governments and reached over 180 municipalities.
“Beautiful Yerevan” initiative addresses the urban development challenges in a complex and sustainable manner, including provision of energy efficiency measures in all buildings that will be refurbished. Promoting energy efficiency makes the municipal administration and the public at large more receptive to its importance and the benefits of its application. The introduction of even the most common and low cost measures will noticeably improve energy performance of the building stock in Yerevan that will be refurbished. According to Smbat Titoyan, resident of Avan administrative district, “the work done by UNDP Armenia and the municipality is of high quality and no complaints were expressed by the residents.” In particular, he mentioned the installation of PVC windows that are very important for energy saving purposes. “I hope that the project will continue and replicated in other districts of Yerevan, as there are still many neglected residential buildings in Yerevan,” he concluded.
Although the project started only in the third quarter of 2011, a major progress has been registered. The monument to Stepan Shahumyan and the adjacent area have been fully refurbished, and entrances of several multi-apartment buildings in Avan administrative district renovated in line with energy efficiency standards.
UNDP and the Municipality of Yerevan are convinced that targeted interventions will support the preservation of cultural and historical heritage in the capital, enhancing the tourism opportunities and socio-economic development of Yerevan. The improved image of the city will contribute to making it more attractive place to live, work and invest.