Issue 3, 2018. June-July

   

TBILISI OVERHAULING MASTER PLAN, TACKLING TRAFFIC

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze's team has an ambitious program, including a revamped master plan for the city and chanGing the mentality of Tbilisi drivers. Investor.ge spoke with Deputy Mayor Irakli Khmaladze about making Tbilisi a green city, the parking problem and sustainable renovations to the Old City.

Mayor Kakha Kaladze and his team are bringing new ideas and new designs to the existing plan for the city, and revamping Tbilisi's master plan to help develop a better, greener, cleaner city.

Planning a Green City

"In one or two months we will have the final document that will be adopted by our local council, and after that the city will have a general master plan," Deputy Mayor Irakli Khmaladze told Investor.ge, noting that it is a matter of redoing -not just updating-the master plan, including some radical changes.

"The exciting part is increasing green areas. This is what we are missing in our city. We are trying to bring this benefit to the public at a reasonable expense. It costs money: if you want to have more green areas it means that you have to build less, so it means that you have to privatize less, so this means a decrease in the income for the local budget. We can make every part of the city green but it will cost a lot," Khmaladze said.

The changes will introduce the best urban development policy for the city, according to the deputy mayor-a major update. But it is a difficult process.

Part of challenge is dealing with private property owners who purchased and invested in land under the previous master plan and who now could face new or different restrictions on how the land can be used.

"That is why this is a very complicated issue. At the same time we should not forget the main priority: this is the correct urban development so it should be done in cooperation with the private sector in order not to harm many interests-not public, not private. This is one of the key issues at the last stage which we are discussing with the expert," he said.

How to Solve a Problem Like Parking

One major challenge for Tbilisi is the transportation system.

"Day by day it is becoming impossible to move around the city[...]If we compare 2011 to 2016, we have almost 3 times more use of private cars. So if we do not change anything, it means that in 2020-2021, we will have lots of problems. Maybe it will be totally impossible to move around the city. That is why[...]we should look to developed countries, what they did, how they achieved that development, and we should use the best practices in the world," he said.

The current policy used abroad is to make it "comfortable" to use public transportation-and less comfortable to use private cars, Khmaladze said.

There are about a half a million cars registered in Tbilisi. There are 33,000 municipal parking places.

"Everyone is expecting that we will be working to increase the amount of parking spaces. Our policy is to decrease the demand for parking spaces," he said, adding it is impossible to just create 100,000 or 200,000 parking places.

"If you want to have the correct transportation system, you need to reduce the use of private cars. So it means that you will be achieving it by making it more comfortable to use public transportation and make it more uncomfortable to use private cars," he said.

The city is planning to present its plans for the transportation system and the parking issue in June, which will include an 18-month study of the transportation system to identify how best to improve it. Over the next four years, the city estimates that half a billion lari need to be invested in the transportation sector, a figure that includes public and private spending.

A New Face for Old Tbilisi

The city is also planning to invest five million lari for rehabilitating historic neighborhoods around the city.

Khmaladze said there are 10 different locations that have been selected for rehabilitation and reconstruction for the next four years. "We will invest this money in these locations to create more and more opportunities for business," he said.

"Tbilisi has a lot of areas that are historically important. Today, these areas are not attractive from the point of view of doing business... But when you demonstrate that you politically support those areas, when you popularize these areas as historically important areas, when you invest a huge amount, you are increasing the value of the immovable assets in this area... People start businesses there... this is economic activity, you are bringing additional income for the people," he said.

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