North Nicosia Master Plan sponsored by UNDP has been rebuilding the historical Nicosia.
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Lions Garden
photo by: Kenan Erden
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North Nicosia Master Plan

Selimiye Area After Restortion

Restoring the Heart of Nicosia

The UN Green Line that runs east west through the heart of the walled city of Nicosia is more than just a physical barrier or a tourist attraction for those on a North Cyprus holiday day trip. It is the border between Northern Cyprus and the south, and this rusting barricade of barbed wire symbolises the division between the two communities since 1974. Buildings near the Green Line bore the signs of the struggle in their poor state of repair and general lack of usage and upkeep. The Green Line buffer zone was a no-man’s land patrolled by UN forces. It seemed that the historic heart of the city was slowly dying due to neglect.

Nicosia, North Cyprus: A Strong City

Nicosia is a very resilient city. It has withstood invasions, bombardment, earthquakes and world wars, and its massive Venetians walls still fully encircle this divided city. However, most of the growth in both Northern Cyprus and the south was happening outside the walls, as urban sprawl growth took the businesses and vitality away from the old heart of the city. Residents moved out from the decaying old houses in the centre of Nicosia to newer accommodation in the suburbs. Unless something was done, the city would die from its heart out.

Two Sides Of Nicosia United By The Master Plan

On 24th October 1979, the leaders two communities, Lellos Demetriades from the Greek Cypriots and Mustafa Akinci from the Turkish Cypriots, came together to propose a solution to the rapid decline of the historic centre of Nicosia. Regular meetings of planners and architects also took place with technical support from the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), and funding from the UNDP. From these meetings the Nicosia Master Plan was formed.

The unique Master Plan was implemented in October 2001, to help restore the historic heart of Nicosia on both side of the Green Line. It is an almost unique example of cross-border cooperation, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) acting as banker and the EU as broker. The project aimed for "The improvement of the existing and future habitat and human settlement conditions of all the inhabitants of Nicosia."

Nicosia Master Plan: Rebuilding Historic Communities in North Nicosia

It was very apparent that the two historic centres either side of the Green Line, the Arab Ahmet quarter in the north and the Chrysaliniotissa area in the south, has suffered more than most. Almost deserted and fast crumbling into urban decay, these areas had to be prioritised if the rot was to be stopped in time. In addition, and if the plan was to succeed, business and commerce were to be encouraged as part of the Master Plan, so that Nicosia would continue to grow and thrive as a living city, not a museum of ancient buildings. As the planners stated, their projects were "designed to maximize impact and encourage social and cultural continuity. This approach serves to connect the historic city centre with the modern metropolis growing outside its walls."

The Master Plan identified a range of improvements for North Nicosia, which included:

Arab Ahmet area
Renovation of historic houses, redesign of traffic and pedestrian areas, and better community facilities

Selimiye Area
The restoration of historic buildings, and general improvements to the surrounding environment.
UNDP Selimiye Square poster

City Walls, Bastions and Moat
Restoration of the walls, and improved landscaping of both bastion and moat areas

Kyrenia Gate Area
Improvement to the traffic and road structures around the Gate, and the road leading to the square.

Central Business District
Development of a major business centre outside of the city walls, funded as a commercial project.

Nicosia Master Plan Costs

The costs for the North Cyprus elements of the plan alone total almost $35m, which proves that both the UN and the two sides are determined to save their city for future generations.

The developments in North Nicosia are in three main phases:
Phase 1 - Selimiye area
Phase 2 - Samanbahce area
Phase 3 - The Market (Selimiye area)

The Selimiye district includes important historic sites such as the Selimiye mosque (St. Sophia Cathedral), the Bedestan (St. Nicholas Church), Haydar Pasa Mosque (formerly St. Catherine's Church), Chapter House, the two Turkish inns the Buyuk Khan and Kumarcilar Khan, the Great Baths or Buyuk Hamam, and the Market. Much of the work on improving the facades of these buildings was completed in October 2003, and Phase 3 work on the market continues at time of writing (2007).

The Samanbahce Area covers about 2000 square meters and is on the north edges of the walled city of Nicosia, close to the Cephane bastion. It is the first example of social housing in Cyprus, being built between 1894 and 1955. The improvements to the area not only benefit the residents, many of whom are on low-income, but the whole city has benefited from the improvements to the general condition of the area, which were completed in April 2004.

The Nicosia Master Plan has not only rejuvenated this ancient city, but its programme of restoration make Nicosia a fascinating place to visit on your North Cyprus holiday.