Towers haunt Bursa’s urban transformation dreams

Towers haunt Bursa’s urban transformation dreams

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Towers haunt Bursa’s urban transformation dreams

The project in Osmangazi’s Doğanbey neighborhood was supposed to be an exemplary project, but it now stands as a testimony to how plans have gone wrong. DAILY NEWS photo

A “failed” urban transformation project in Bursa, consisting of 22-storey buildings in the heart of the city center, overshadows further plans in the northwestern city.

The project in Osmangazi’s Doğanbey neighborhood, built by the Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) in cooperation with Osmangazi Municipality, was supposed to be an “exemplary project,” but it now stands as a testimony to how plans have gone wrong.

The problems, and the public anger towards the “ugliness” of the buildings, recently prompted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to give a harsh warning to local authorities. Erdoğan was in Bursa on Aug. 17 to launch another ambitious urban transformation project, in which 36,000 houses will be demolished in the Yıldırım district over seven years, to be replaced by 40,000 new ones.

Not like matchboxes

“The buildings to be built here cannot be like matchboxes, they should reflect Seljuk and Ottoman architecture,” the prime minister said during his speech. “The buildings here should have five storeys, we do not want skyscrapers,” he added, forcing the local mayor to change the plans that had included eight-storey buildings.

“Yes, Doğanbey has been a bad example,” Yıldırım Mayor Özgen Keskin was quoted as saying in daily Habertürk on Aug. 25. “We now have our orders and we will do it. It will be difficult, but we can do it,” Keskin said when asked about Erdoğan’s warning.

Füsun Uyanık, the head of the Chamber of City Planners’ Bursa branch, says the “I’ll do as I wish” mentality of politicians is the main problem. “They have the development plans for the Mevlana Project, but they do not have the implementation project,” Uyanık told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone. “There is no information on how the transformation will be made. Where will the people living in the neighborhood go while the works are being completed? It is easy to say, ‘lower the buildings,’ but this will mean a complete overhaul of the entire project,” she said.

Uyanık added that the chamber, together with the Chamber of Civil Engineers, would take the Doğanbey project to court to seek its annulment, as they feel “cheated” by it. “The project presented to us at the beginning had nothing to do with the current one. When the number of titleholders exceeded their imagination, the five-storey buildings grew to towers,” she said. “Even though the houses are not 100 percent occupied, the infrastructure is already failing.”

The Osmangazi Municapility did not return calls made by the Hürriyet Daily News.

Another problem with the project is that it set a precedent, with the number of permissions given to high buildings having since increased, according to Uyanık.The project also looks set to be an issue in the local elections, which are scheduled for March 2014. “The Doğanbey monstrosity is the most terrible TOKİ project in the country,” said İsmet Karaca, local head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“But TOKİ has become a scapegoat here, the real culprits are the municipalities. The buildings have destroyed the historical silhouette of Bursa, the Ulucami and the Old Bazaar have been overshadowed.”

The solution, according to Karaca, is simple: “The extra storeys should be torn down. This will be our promise to the citizens in the election.”