Belgrade Waterfront Redevelopment

Blog post from 2017 written for a former blog, Wandering in Cities

Belgrade Waterfront Redevelopment: to get the development through has seen the government has side step countless laws and regulations, and for which there has been zero consultation with the local community.

Seen as part of Serbia’s bid to achieve a global-city status and appeal to ‘the elite’, the scheme has been initiated through a partnership made between the Serbian government and Eagle Hills, a leading Abu Dhabi-based private investment and development company, focused on the creation of new city hubs in high-growth international markets.  

The development is set to encroach upon the neighbourhood of Savamala, regarded the creative hub of the city, that has recently undergone its own an organic, community-led rejuvenation process. Belgrade Waterfront is set to undo a great deal of this work.

The local communities response to the proposed developments has been exemplary. First attempting to challenge plans through the official channels, after being repeatedly ignored they moved onto explore other means.

Photos above, taken September 2016, show one of many excellently executed protests against the proposals, organised by Ne Davimo Beograd (“Don’t Drown Belgrade”). 

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Photos above, taken September 2016, show one of many excellently executed protests against the proposals, organised by Ne Davimo Beograd (“Don’t Drown Belgrade”).

Organisers had created a surplus of placards for anyone to help themselves to, enabling everyone to get and feel involved.

The icon of the protests? A yellow rubber duck. Chosen as in Serbia duck stands for both fraud and penis.

A creative, inclusive protest with residents dressed up as various ‘characters’ from the redevelopment story so far: including balaclava clad characters referencing the horrific incident on 24 April whereby several buildings situated on the site of the proposed development were demolished at night (those of which the occupiers had been refusing to vacate) by men wearing balaclavas. Onlookers to the scene reportedly had their phones taken by the men and were bound up, tragically resulting in the death of one Read more here.

I was in the city shortly after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had erected a huge wall at the south barrier of his country, aimed at preventing refugees, travelling along the so-called Balkan route entering into the county. Limiting entrance into Hungary to 30 per day (28 women and children; 2 men). Serbia, and specifically Belgrade, the stop before Hungary was left to pay the price for his decision.

The result? Camps full to saturation, mostly comprised of young men. Refugees sleeping on the streets of Belgrade or in unsafe warehouses, where fires were constantly breaking out causing a great risk to occupants safety.

Scenes of refugees sleeping at the foot of huge, crass, developers hoarding signs showing this vision of a new ‘new Belgrade’ (to supersede the old new Belgrade) was a daily occurrence. 

The development, complete with a showroom to showcase plans in a controlled environment (photos taken below secretly), positioned in the neighbourhood of Savamala, for which they had claimed the old bank for their purposes (which had been a grass routes arts spaces immediately prior). 

Expensive brochures and associated books showing images of rich, white people admiring their view from their new waterfront development. With advertisements written largely in English, in a country operating almost strictly in Cyrillic. 

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#Regeneration for who?

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