In the 90’s, this big green lot in Cihangir named Roma Garden was a prestigous area with a view of the palace. and there was an attempt to build municipal public housing on this land. The locals rejected this and the municipality realized they cannot get this proposal to be approved by the council. But they did not give up. First they wanted to place the power utilities and the transformer building for the high speed tramway line here. This attempt, which indicated the intentions clearly, was also prevented. Eventually, the municipality was convinced to re-plan the area, plant some trees and make this place a park.
However, in the beginning of 2000’s, this time MSGSU (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University) set their eyes on this land. They wanted to open this property for development and be used as an extension to the Tophane building by resurrecting the old buildings that used to be here. Cihangir Association resisted against this also. They planted trees in the green lot and attracted media coverage. Some time passed and this time, Kadir Topbaş came up with the “Social Facilities” project which he claimed were prepared in his own office. He told the locals if there is a Beltur facility here (which was later built in Kasımpaşa), the space will be public and will not be occupied by private interests. Then the association found an interesting way to resist against Topbaş’s insistence and proposed that Turgut Cansever, who is also a consultant of the municipality, to be the referee on this issue. Cansever said “instead of building this facility in the only green area in this neighborhood, purchase an empty building, restore and transform it.” Thus, Topbaş’s neo-Ottoman restaurant dreams did not come true.
This precious green lot still stands there appetizingly. This time interventions are much more extensive. And conservation plans are used as a tool for this. Last year MSGSU, after a negotiation with Tayyip Erdoğan, tried to rebuild by “copy-pasting” the old Military Academy, which was demolished during the road widening practices of the Menderes demolition period.
The intervention on the Meclis-i Mebusan Street has been stopped for now. The only green lot in Cihangir proved itself to be worthy of the name “Roma Garden” since as Roman beach front villa was discovered during archeological excavations. However, the remains of the municipalities construction and the sign that has misleading information are still there.
The district of Cihangir was developed starting from the top, due to topographic inclinations. The coastal area was mainly industrial and underdeveloped, which witnessed destruction in the 1950’s. The Roma Gardenis still there as the last green space in Beyoğlu.
The architect who won the bid for this project is the same person who tried to build a shopping mall under the disguise of historical military barracks in the most important green area in the city center. Thus this lot is under threat of development from both the top and the bottom.
The Conservation Development Plan was prepared in order to open all the green lots in the district for development, under the disguise of “regeneration”. The plans were cancelled after the legal action that was conducted by the neighborhood associations in 2014. However, The Council of State removed this cancellation with controversial reasons. In the future, not only the Roma Garden, but also even the smallest school garden is under threat of regeneration. It is rumored that this time the Municipality of İstanbul is preparing a project of Neo-Ottoman restaurant and car park to be built on the garden. In the near future, it is possible that a contract can be signed and the construction might begin without informing the locals. Against this fait accompli, there is an urgent need for revived action and cooperationin the neighborhood to protect the Roma Garden.