Nicosia: Preservation order lifeline for Melkonian

Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
May 1 2004

Preservation order lifeline for Melkonian
By Jean Christou

THE government has slapped a preservation order on the Melkonian
Educational Institute (MEI) in Nicosia, giving the school, slated to
close next year, a temporary reprieve.

The preservation order, issued by the Town Planning Department, states
that `no alteration or construction be executed on the buildings,
group of buildings and areas … considered of special architectural /
historical / social importance’ and clearly marked in the relevant
government land surveys plans, an announcement from the MEI’s alumni

`However, there are still no assurances about the school’s
continuation beyond June 2005, after which a good number of Armenian
students living in Cyprus would be left deprived of a
national-language school, while the boarding students are under threat
of being sent home,’ the announcement said.

The central board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), in
New York said last month that the 78-year-old school would close in
June 2005, but the alumni says that the Melkonian brothers’ will does
not confer to the AGBU the right to `denature or destroy these
Armenian structures’.

The loss-making Melkonian is sitting on a £40 million plot in the
capital’s commercial district and reports are rife that it was up for
grabs by developers.

The AGBU said in November that the school was not for sale, but then
changed tack and announced the closure. The alumni are convinced the
foundation’s only aim is to `take the money and run’.

The preservation order covers the twin buildings of the school, which
was erected as an orphanage by the Melkonian brothers in 1926, the old
residence of the founders, the wooded area on the main Limassol road,
the boarding house and the teachers’ apartments.

`In effect, the school is now out of bounds for any developer or any
other school contemplating to take over the Melkonian grounds to
develop their own campus, as the preservation order forbids any
development or construction work beyond the present state of the

The Town Planning Department in is decision took into account the fact
that the Melkonian buildings were characteristic or unique examples of
urban architecture of Nicosia.

`The preservation of the architectural or historical heritage, the
above examples of which are part of, regarding the important factor
for the successful evolution and development of the town planning
infrastructure of Nicosia,’ the order said.