Ömer Erbil – ISTANBUL
The Istanbul Municipality has halted construction at the in-progress Galataport project, which has been the subject of debate for over a decade.
The Istanbul Second Cultural Assets Protection Board filed a complaint to the public prosecutor’s office after determining that the demolition method and the renovation project regarding the Karaköy Passenger Lounge and the historic adjacent post office building were not appropriate.
In response, the Istanbul Municipality halted construction at the Galataport project, citing practices taken by the construction companies against the actual agreed plan. Construction started last year with a joint initiative by Doğuş Group and Bilgili Holding.
In its complaint prepared after examinations at the site, the board listed practices that constitute crimes, including the company not accepting the renovation plan for the historic post office and its destruction of the sites that should have been renovated.
The Salıpazarı Port Management, which is carrying out the Galataport project, drew controversy earlier this year by demolishing the post office building and the historic Karaköy Passenger Lounge with heavy machinery.
Constructed in the 1940s, the Karaköy Passenger Lounge was registered as “a cultural asset that needs to be protected” in 2002. In 2005, the board determined it as a first protected site.
The post office building was initially constructed as customs building between 1907 and 1911 and was also registered as a cultural asset.
The board on March 8 filed complaints against those responsible for demolishing the historic buildings against the renovation plan, which was approved by the board on June 9, 2016.
Six of the board members examined the Galataport project on April 6 under the leadership of urban planner Ahmet Kaya. The authorities concluded that the exterior walls surrounding the structure were harmed during the demolition and asked for a report to be prepared regarding the walls’ strength to carry weight.
In addition to the board, it has also emerged that Istanbul Municipality’s Housing Directorate prepared a report last month on the Galataport construction before halting the project.
“It was determined that some of the elements of the structure that needed to be protected were demolished, against the original renovation project,” the municipality report read.
The Galataport project was first mooted when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
was Istanbul mayor in 1995.
The first privatization decision regarding the renovation of the port area was taken in 2002 and the first tender was held in September 2005 by the Turkish Maritime Businesses. It was won by a consortium including Royal Caribbean Cruises, of which Sami Ofer is a partner.
The Ofer-Global partnership, which won the tender with a 3.5 billion-euro bid, suggested investment worth 401 million euros for the project. However, the Chamber of Istanbul City Planners filed a complaint in order for the construction plan to be canceled, which was accepted by the Council of State.
A second tender was held after the court decision on May 16, 2013 and the Doğuş Group won it with an offer worth $704 million.