American real estate tycoon Donald Trump and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili both have a soft spot for a tall building, and, so, could not praise each other enough when Trump dropped by Georgia on April 22 to unveil plans for a Trump Tower in Batumi.
“You’re a big man outside this area, believe me,” Trump told Saakashvili in Batumi, Civil.ge news bulletin service reported. The delighted Saakashvili responded by hailing the mogul as “ the greatest building and developer in the world," and bestowing him with the national Order of Excellence.
Saakashvili, whose Grand Travaux campaign has brought a number of extravagant glass-and-steel structures to Georgia, hopes that the planned 47-story luxury residential building will pave the way for much-needed international investment. Another Trump tower is planned for the capital, Tbilisi.
Tall buildings can earn Georgia points on many fronts, the thinking in Tbilisi seems to go. They will provide some good visual PR to attract investors and tourists (to wit, the Chacha Tower,
dedicated to the national hard liquor, chacha), and to impress the impoverished breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Skyscrapers are expected to help urbanize Georgia’s largely rural society and they could even have a defensive function. “It’s very uncomfortable to bomb skyscrapers. It looks very, very ugly,” Saakashvili told TIME Magazine about a year after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
But Georgia also has no shortage of skyscraper-skeptics. Some are worried about the environmental impact, others do not share the president’s taste in modern architecture, while all rather wonder about the money question. Trump is lending his name, but not his money to the Batumi and Tbilisi towers; a local investment group will pony up the cash for the actual construction.
Batumi is indeed changing fast, but the plans to build another seaside city
– Lazika – from scratch may steal resources and attention from the Trump Tower.
For now, the rival Chacha Tower, seems the easier project to complete. After all, chacha is one resource that is never in short supply in Georgia.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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