© Georgi Kozhuharov
The house with the wreaths is called the house-monument of culture at 64 Neofit Rilski Street in Sofia.
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On “Neofit Rilski” Street in the center of Sofia, several houses form a group immovable cultural property. In front of some of them, skeletons have been built and are being actively restored at the moment, others are in preparation. Only one, called the Wreath House because of the ornaments on the facade, stands empty and abandoned. It is at No. 64 and has been crumbling for years, and for some time the part of it facing the street has been hidden by a dark wall.
We have an order from the municipality to repair the facade, residents of the neighboring buildings explained to “Dnevnik”. However, House of Wreaths has not yet been issued, or at least no one confirmed one when checking the media. The owner of the building is the Union of Bulgarian Teachers (SBU) with its chairman Yanka Takeva, and a year and a half ago the organization was refused to upgrade the building and to have an underground garage.
“We will restore or repair the facade, but we are waiting for permission from the municipality,” Takeva told “Dnevnik” without giving details of what she actually expects.
The house with the wreaths was built at the beginning of the 20th century for Dobri Petkov, Speaker of the National Assembly (1907-1908) and Minister of Public Buildings, Roads and Urban Planning (1913-1918). The two-story building has the status of architectural and artistic immovable cultural value, given in 1976. For many years, it housed the Regional Health Inspectorate of the Sofia region.
© Georgi Kozhuharov
The house with the wreaths is hidden with dark plaster, because the ornaments on the facade can fall off.
Request to build up and down
The building was acquired by the teachers’ union at the request of Yanka Takeva, who in 2009 requested the issuance of a notarial deed of ascertainment for an 899 sq.m yard and a 15-room house with a total area of 372 sq.m at 64 Neofit Rilski St. The tax assessment of the property was then BGN 359,000. The syndicate does not pay anything because it presents documents with which it is recognized as the owner “by right”. SBU, which was founded by Takeva in 1990, states on its official page that it is the legal successor of a teachers’ union from 1885.
In his statements after the acquisition, Takeva indicated that the SBU’s task was to strengthen the building in order to rent it out.
In 2019, the Ministry of Culture issued an opinion to restore the building – structural strengthening and adaptation of the immovable cultural value, but no action was taken by the union.
In the same year, Takeva, through Ivan Kochev’s pet company “Bul-Vin” EOOD, submitted to the municipal Directorate “Architecture and Town Planning” (NAG) a project for a working layout plan. With it, it is requested that the House with the Wreaths be upgraded by one floor – to the height of the roof, as well as to build an underground level for garages.
In 2020, the Public Expert Council on Territorial Planning at the NAG came out with an opinion that the request for an underground level would endanger “the foundations of the neighboring buildings, which are cultural monuments”. Experts also object to the upgrade. With it, the building-real estate will lose its authenticity. On this basis, the chief architect of Sofia, Zdravko Zdravkov, by order of March 22, 2022, refused to approve the project of the Petri company and the teachers’ union.
© Maxim Karadjov
The neighboring house is being restored. The municipality has issued a prescription to the owners for this.
The building also falls within the “territory of a System of Ensembles” between the streets “Khan Krum”, “Strumica”, “Neofit Rilski”, “G.S. Rakovski” and “Tsar Ivan Shishman”, for which the NAG has commissioned the preparation of a complete update of the group immovable value (this means checking the status) and of the individual immovable cultural values within it. The development has been sent to the National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage (NINKN), but so far we have no data that it has been forwarded for consideration to the expert council of the Ministry of Culture, the Metropolitan Municipality explained.
Yanka Takeva refused to answer more questions on the subject, except for the laconic comment that she is waiting for a permit. It was not clear if he meant he was waiting for that building status update, which should confirm it.
In principle, the law does not allow the owner to be inactive
“There are no legal reasons for the owner of the building to be inactive and wait for its preservation regime. The Law on Cultural Heritage, with the amendments of 2019, obliges him to maintain the property in good condition,” said the Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage after an inquiry by “Dnevnik” . From there, they did not comment on the specific case.
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In similar cases, with collapsing facades/buildings, citizens most often refer the regional inspectorates for the protection of cultural heritage and the municipalities. They must assess whether there really is a problem and give the so-called prescriptions for action. Dnevnik’s check did not find that one has been issued for the House with Wreaths.
Photo gallery: These buildings in Sofia can be protected as architectural value