From: Karl Kuçi
The Urban Renaissance Bankrupted Korça’s Old Bazaar

Korça is not like all other Albanian cities. Upon arrival, you can see the well-organized outskirts and neighborhoods, its streets and sidewalks, and its buildings that are at a distance from one another and the road, its narrow streets are lit and its buildings are beautifully reconstructed.

As you slowly approach the center, the number of buildings is astounding, as are the green public and private areas surrounding the 1930s villas, which are to this day a testimony of a happy and rich period.

The traffic goes on normally; nobody seems to be in a rush. The roads are constructed and in order. You don’t come across any skyscrapers built in the middle of the street, as you do in Tirana.

In the main center you can find a useless tower, that is ugly in shape, size, and color. It serves as a signature of the prime minister’s restless ego, being a painter, he uses the country as his own canvas.

A broad pedestrian road that is constantly reconstructed shows the preference of Albanians for coffee, giving the city a massive square, which seems to be in disproportion with the need of the city and its citizens.

But the city doesn’t end here. A little further you can find the “Old Bazaar,” a number of two-storied buildings built in the 1920s, the first floors of which have been turned into stores or cafes. They are positioned on the side of the neat alleys, surrounding a big square paved with traditional cobblestones. All the stores have handmade steel padlocks to protect the glass windows.

Up until a few months ago, in this center you could find an outdoor market that sold clothes. Almost all the stores survived by selling some kind of product, from food to clothing and industrial materials.

It was a traditional market, where almost 100 years ago the residents went to shop for what they needed. At that time, there were people interested to buy, and merchants willing to sell.

Under the Rama government the Urban Renaissance Project aimed at creating the center and squares for the citizens in Korça. So, the facades of the buildings were painted, the roofs were rebuilt, the streets were lit and reconstructed. The entire square of the Bazaar became a construction site financed by the municipality of Korça and various international benefactors, such as the European Union and the Albanian–American Development Foundation.

The “Old Bazaar” reconstruction project was accomplished after two years and the municipality determined a list with the twenty businesses that could be established in the bazaar, forcing the majority of the old merchants to leave the market square.

Because of the plan followed by the municipality, shops that offered a beautiful vista remained closed and vacated. In the century-old square and its alleys, there are now some closed cafes and shops, with signs saying For Rent or For Sale hanging over their doors.