A city is facing the problem of a lack of centrally located parking spaces. To solve the problem, and to make drivers’ lives easier, the mayor has proposed developing an underground car park with two, three or even four levels, along the lines of similar projects in large EU cities. The car park would be built in the historical city centre, beneath a square that contains a number of ancient historical monuments and religious buildings, including a recently renovated 11th-century cathedral.
The estimated cost of the project is UAH 2.3 billion, which would be allocated from the city budget. Private investors could be involved, who would receive revenue from the parking charges. According to the project concept, the land would be owned by the community.
The square has been substantially reconstructed on several occasions, in line with changes in ideology or authoritarian government. Historical monuments and buildings that were destroyed in the middle of the 20th century have been renovated by the new administration. Funds for the restoration of the cathedral included donations made by the Ukrainian diaspora around the world.
The project has been designed in accordance with best practices in other big cities. "We want the square to be more comfortable”, the team proposing the project explains. “In Barcelona, there is a three-level underground car park near one of the cathedrals. The mayor asked us to find out whether a similar concept could be applied in our city. There are currently a lot of cars in the square. Why not hide them below ground, if possible? It would be a huge improvement to the public space."
The citizens’ viewpoint, however, is not based on either economic or immediate gains. The cathedral, carefully renovated following its destruction, has become a symbol of national identity. It gives citizens a sense of unity and strengthens their position.
The square is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage buffer zone, which means there are certain limitations in terms of construction and renovation. This provides protection for the precious archaeological strata beneath the square, which would be destroyed if the underground car park were to be constructed.
The proposed construction of the underground car park made the headlines, and, following a discussion in the media, it was agreed to hold public hearings on the issue. A final decision will be made based on the results of the public hearings, ensuring the involvement of all stakeholders.
Activists carried out an opinion poll on the best way to use the money planned for the construction. Instead of an underground car park, local residents would prefer to spend money on:
The proposals will be discussed at the public hearings scheduled by the authorities.
Air pollution is a common problem in big cities. To improve air quality, local authorities often limit traffic in the city centre and create pedestrian zones. It may be true that there are significant buildings in the central areas of many European capitals, but the project designers are keen to negotiate with UNESCO, which is in fact a legal requirement. Other issues need to be resolved by the local authorities, the public and the media.
From the viewpoint of the city architects, the densely constructed buildings around the square pose an additional problem, as they limit the possibilities for creating access routes to the car park.
A lawyer specialising in land law believes that the public should closely monitor the construction, and also the rights that will be acquired by any private investors engaged in the construction.
The cathedral has been renovated using donations from the congregation, and must not be affected by the proposed construction work. The church community agrees that the city’s lack of parking spaces should be urgently and comprehensively addressed, but it is unlikely that a car park beneath the square will provide an efficient solution.