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Highly Controversial Renovation of Budapest Square Comes to an End

Hungary Today 2022.12.12.

After more than a year of waiting, the renovated Blaha Lujza Square in the center of Budapest was inaugurated over the weekend. Although minor works, such as the electrical network, are still awaiting completion on the site, most of the commission has been concluded. However, important elements were left out of the project such as the renovation of the underground passage.

The inauguration event was attended by the Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, who said that it was a beautiful day because they had come to pay off a serious debt. He thanked the government for providing a quarter of the investment.

Katalin Walter, CEO of the Center for Budapest Transport, which carried out the renovation work, said that

the project was completed in 505 days with 150 people working on it in the cold and the heat.

Zsolt Láng, the government commissioner responsible for the complex development of the Central Hungary Economic Development Zone, said that the square had been in a deplorable state for decades and was in need of renovation. At the same time, he noted that the project had spanned local government cycles and that the previous city administration had not envisioned the construction in this way.

Thanks to the project that started in July 2021, not only the surface of the square, but also the insulation of the upper joists of the underpass, the roadway above it and, as a related development, the Somogyi Béla Street have been completely renewed.

The investment cost a gross HUF 3.68 billion (EUR 8.8 million), of which HUF 2.68 billion was provided by the Municipality of Budapest and HUF 1 billion by the government.

However, the original plans were different and there was a lot of controversy surrounding the renovation of the square. Dávid Vitézy, the former CEO of the Budapest Development Center, complained at the start of the project that the renovation had not been preceded by any public debate or consultation and that important elements had been left out of the capital’s plans.

The renovation of Blaha Lujza Square was already among the plans of the previous Budapest administration, when Fidesz politician István Tarlós was mayor. Back then, a HUF 4.16 billion budget was approved for the development, which had a broader technical content than the project that was finally realized. After opposition politician Gergely Karácsony took over the position of mayor, the plans were significantly modified as the new leadership wanted to rationalize costs. In addition, they reportedly wanted to focus on issues such as the immediate challenges of climate change and various social needs.

Although the square has been renewed, there are still many tasks that need to be done in the context of a renovation – but these have been left out of the current project. For example, the underpass has not been fully renovated and its accessibility has not been improved.

Featured photos via MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd

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