YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A new multi-storey underground car park has been officially opened in a central Yerevan square that remained closed for nearly two years because of the large-scale construction project.
Construction in Liberty Square began several months after security forces had dispersed the tent camp of the Armenian opposition protesting the outcome of the disputed 2008 presidential election. The opposition has insisted all along that the decision was aimed at preventing its members from staging more rallies at the square, which had turned into a popular place for political gatherings. The accusations have been denied by the government.
City authorities now hope the new facility will take the burden off the nearby streets where traffic is often complicated because of the accumulation of parked cars.
The new garage can provide room for up to 500 cars at a time and has been built as part of an urban development investment project presented by the Italian Renco S.p.A company and the Yerevan municipality.
Attending the structure’s inauguration on Monday were Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian, and other officials.
After the opening ceremony President Sarkisian toured the parking facility and the square. He said the underground garage built by the Italian contractor should set a standard for other such projects in the future.
“I think that there will be no cars parked in the nearby streets anymore and driving will become very convenient. I think a very good job has been done,” said the president.
Beglarian also said he hoped the new car park would at least partly solve the parking problems in the city center. He said the fact that Yerevan today has ‘such a beautiful structure’ proves wrong the oppositionists who would accuse the government of closing the square for political reasons.
The Armenian opposition, meanwhile, said they are likely to seek to stage their next rally in re-opened Liberty Square.
The car park under Liberty Square, meanwhile, will be opened for use on Tuesday, but the parking fee yet needs to be specified.
Yerevan’s mayor said the project cost a little more than 4 billion drams (about $10.5 million) and that the facility would be the property of the municipality.
“As for the parking fee, it will be between 100 and 500 drams (about $0.25-$1.3). The final car park charges are yet to be decided, but there will be per hour, per month and per year fee options,” said Beglarian, adding that similar car parks will also be built beneath two other squares in central Yerevan.