Over the past fifteen years, Georgia’s two largest cities of Batumi and Tbilisi have experienced overwhelming urban transformations in the form of building demolitions, extensive renovations, and new construction. A significant portion of the latter has been two specific types of private-sector urban development: large, iconic flagship projects (over 75,000m², greater than 20-storeys, and/or more than 120 million GEL) and medium-large residential infill projects (20,000-74,000m², 10-19-storeys, and/or 50-119 million GEL).
These project types have changed the landscapes of Batumi and Tbilisi by increasing neighborhood densities, introducing new architectural design aesthetics, shifting existing socio-economic structures, overturning existing regulatory restrictions, and at times changing programmatic uses. Led by private-sector developers from both within and outside Georgia, they further reflect the rise of such actors as new authorities driving urban development in the country. Socio-Spatial Georgia develops a detailed analysis of the impacts of such projects and systematically explains their underlying causes.
As existing research on large urban developments has shown, large, private sector urban development often involves population restructuring and gentrification, and at times has been linked to displacement. The overwhelming tendency for these projects to remain unoccupied or in a protracted state of construction further speaks to their involvement in larger global processes of real-estate speculation and capital accumulation, producing an urbanism driven by market forces rather than the needs of residents. If continued, this type of urban development will transform considerable portions of both Batumi and Tbilisi. Understanding this trend relative to global market forces and local-level civilian impressions is thus crucial for preparing these cities for their futures.
Socio-Spatial Georgia aims to understand the deeper societal implications of large, private-sector, urban development in Batumi and Tbilisi some fifteen years after their emergence, and at a time when Georgia continues to rely heavily on such projects to boost the economy. Our three-year research program relies on qualitative and quantitative data to meet the following objectives:
Objective 1: quantify the magnitude of these large, private sector developments and assess rates of building completion and vacancy.
Objective 2: investigate how these projects have had social impacts on their surrounding neighborhoods and residents.
Objective 3: unpack how large, private sector developments in Batumi and Tbilisi can be understood relative to global market forces, processes of capital accumulation, and city branding.
Objective 4: scrutenize whether the increase of large corporate development in Batumi and Tbilisi warrants new planning laws and regulations in order to minimize their social impacts.
Socio-Spatial Georgia currently focuses on the country’s two largest cities of Batumi and Tbilisi. Research findings pertaining to each city will be added here as the project progresses. Please check back regularly for updates.