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“Sofia’s breathing” and how pedestrian streets affect real estate

Last year during the annual and already traditional ‘’Sofia’s breathing’’ event there was a petition that I signed, which was demanding that Tsar Shishman street becomes pedestrian. Now in the wake of this annual street fest I am re-thinking the concept of the pedestrian areas within the city. What if Tsar Shishman street really does become pedestrian and how this would affect the community, the flow of the street and last but not least the real estate.

Let’s take a fairly recent example Vitosha blvd. You may have noted that Vitosha blvd. underwent several transformations. The high-street of the capital, which traditionally is a shopping destination once becoming pedestrian changed. Once the shopping migrated towards the shopping malls, Vitosha blvd. turned into a hangout street full of cafes, restaurants, bank branches and predominantly small shops. While reviewing a number of articles describing how large cities are trying to reverse the process where high-streets are solely a shopping destination, as opposed to places where people get together and feel a part of a community, I am happy to say that Sofia is a pioneer in this process. While Vitosha blvd. was a polished destination with incredibly high rental levels by any standard, this effect has now been toned down by turning it into a pedestrian street.

We have noted high street retail rental levels drop on Vitosha blvd., not solely due to the financial crisis, but also due to the types of businesses occupying the premises. Naturally every business has sensitivity as to what rental levels they can survive on and be profitable.

Not only has it created a community but in effect the turning into pedestrian of Vitosha blvd. has created more sustainability in the real estate model. Should we have learned anything from the financial crisis, this should be to create sustainable businesses which will survive throughout any economic cycle.

I will sign the petition this year too, for the attempt of making Tsar Shishman street or any other downtown street in Sofia pedestrian. This is how we can contribute to a more livable Sofia, by providing more pedestrian streets, biking alleys, green areas so that Sofia’s really breathing.

Galina Dimitrova


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