Amid a barrage of media reports claiming that Istanbul's famed İstiklal Avenue is losing its popularity with a rash of shop closures, Ahmet Misbah Demircan, the mayor of the Beyoğlu district where the avenue is located, said it is only a temporary crisis. Speaking to AFP, Demircan said the avenue would never lose its dynamism and the current recession was an unfortunate "reality" but only a temporary one.
Several Turkish media outlets have reported that many shops and branches of department store chains closed down in the pedestrianized lane at the heart of Istanbul in recent months and recent terror attacks and the July 15 coup attempt factored in the closures.
"[Terror attacks and the coup attempt] are aimed at dealing a setback to Turkey's economy. We are aware of the negative waves. It's only natural after all that has happened and I personally do not see any sign it will have permanent repercussions," said Demircan. Although some businesses could not survive because of a lack of profits, it would be unfair to stigmatize İstiklal Avenue and craft "disaster scenarios" out of it, he said.
İstiklal has long remained a busy street popular with both locals and foreign tourists but rising rents thanks to economic growth in recent years have hurt businesses on the avenue, as have security concerns following a suicide bombing that killed several Israeli tourists in March and the deadly bombings at Atatürk Airport in June.
Architect Kadem Ekşi said urban transformation projects including the demolition of old houses also affected the neighborhood, turning it into a "construction site."
But it will not last forever, he said, because "at the end of the day İstiklal is the heart of Istanbul, a living city" and a significant brand.
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