Starting November 2012 Taksim will never be the same place anymore. To make Taksim Square a pedestrian only zone, huge construction works are taking place (see video below). The main idea of this project is to clear out the traffic chaos around the square. But here is the catch, for the time being life in and around it is even more hectic. Here’s what you can expect (in the future) and how to best cope with it.
Edit: the renovation works have been completed as of October 2013!
The New Taksim Square in a Nutshell
- Taksim will have a huge car-free area (98 square meters).
- All the bus stops and traffic around the Taksim Square will vanish.
- The existing traffic flow will follow almost the same route, but underground.
- The city buses will have underground stops with connections to metro and funicular.
- The old buildings in the area will be renovated faithful to the original ones almost a century ago.
- The whole project will be completed within 1,5 years.
Taksim Topçu Kışlası Controversy
Taksim Topçu Kışlası (Taksim Military Barracks) will be rebuilt. Its courtyard will be used as an ice-ring during the day and as a concert hall at nights. The facility will serve as a cultural center with cafes, bookstores, an art gallery, a museum, an exhibition site, and an underground parking lot.
The Taksim Military Barracks were first built in 1806 and in 1921 its courtyard was transformed into the first football stadium of Turkey, Taksim Stadium. In 1940 it was demolished for renovation works of Taksim Square. Experts agree that not keeping and renovating the original building was a huge mistake. Today most experts also agree that it is wrong to rebuild it on the grounds of Taksim Park if it won’t even resemble the original one, especially because the only green area in Taksim will vanish.
How Will all This Affect You?
Taksim is one of the busiest places in the Beyoğlu district, both for tourists and locals alike. It is a center of entertainment, art, dining, shopping, with well-known places such as Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi. Taksim is also a gigantic Istanbul public transportation hub. To give you an idea, there are 81 bus routes leaving from Taksim and 16 more driving through. And now traffic will be even worse!
The first step of the project is to block traffic on the 400 meter stretch of Cumhuriyet Street between Tarlabaşı and Harbiye. The traffic must flow in alternative directions:
- to get to Harbiye from Tarlabaşı, through Taksim Square, Mete Street-Asker Ocağı Street-connecting to Cumhuriyet Street (in front of Divan Hotel)
- to get to Tarlabaşı from Harbiye, Cumhuriyet Street-Abdulhakhamit Street to Tarlabaşı.
City line buses, dolmuş and taxis will all be using these routes.
I advise you to walk as much as possible and/or take the railway (Tünel from Beyoğlu to Karaköy), metro (from Taksim to other centers like Mecidiyeköy) and fenicular (from Taksim to Kabataş) since there is no change or limitation for those.
The duration of this first stage was estimated as 8 months starting from November 5th.
However, the bad news is that the Board of Cultural Property Protection announced that digging has to be done under the supervision of the archaeologists. If any cultural property is found, than the digging area will be expanded and machines will no longer be allowed to work on the site. You can call this the downside of living in a city established around 660 BC.
Since it is very likely that they will stumble on historical artifacts, the deadline is now obscure and the word is out that the projected eight months may become years.