YEREVAN (Hetq)–Scores of residents from the Kozern neighborhood of Yerevan gathered outside the Government Building earlier Thursday to protest plans to acquire and demolish sections of the district for redevelopment.
Some 194 households in the neighborhood are threatened demolition. The residents have said they will not be removed from their homes and have refused offers to purchase their properties at $300 per square meter.They argue that compensation rates proposed by the government are laughable for the prime real-estate.
“We want apartments in return. I have been living in the neighborhood for 70 years. The government better not try any funny stuff to trick us,” said Matsak Hovhannisyan. “Long-time residents will never leave so that these developers can move in and do what they like.”
Local residents said they are not opposed to developing the area but want adequate compensation, preferably comparable sized apartments in any new buildings.
Resident Samvel Mkrtchyan said that it wasn’t a question of money but one of trust. “Let’s get the new apartments first and then we’ll leave our homes.”
The protesters say they want to sit down and negotiate with Samvel Mayrapetyan, the chief developer involved in Kozern. Mkrtchyan, who was allowed to enter the government building, told the protesting residents that he had secured a meeting with Mayrapetyan to be scheduled in the next two days.
During the demonstration, Yerevan’s newly elected mayor, Karen Karapetyan, was seen trying to avoid the crowd while exiting the building. The protesters surrounded Karapetyan, peppering him with questions and demands.
“Why don’t you appoint a committee and visit the neighborhood yourself to find out what’s happening?” asked one of the protesters.
“OK, fine,” answered the mayor and left the scene.
Speaking to the demonstrators, Mkrtchyan summed up the sentiments of the crowd, saying no one could force the residents to leave their homes. “Kozern isn’t Northern Avenue. We will not allow what happened elsewhere in Yerevan to happen to us,” he declared.