The weird history of the “Coffin Hotel” in Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca

The story of the construction of the “Coffin Hotel” on Avram Iancu/Petőfi Sándor Street started in 2004. The Regional Commission of Historic Monuments was against it from the beginning, so the builder behind the project, Dumitru Ghișe, moved the case to Bucharest, where he awaited a more favorable government. Based on the approval from Bucharest, the City Hall of Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca then signed the authorization for construction.

Ghișe is no stranger to controversy. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutors Office opened proceedings for three separate cases against him. In 2014, he was accused of fraud, with assumed damages that exceeded EUR 70 million. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, but he appealed and won.

As to the monstrous hotel, there is nothing to do now because all the documents are legal, say the experts.

In 2005, the said documents were submitted to the Regional Commission for Historic Monuments in Cluj, which is part of the County Directorate for Culture in Cluj, an institution that is subordinate to the Ministry of Culture. This commission rejected all attempts for approval in 2005, 2007 and 2008. It is interesting that each time, the builder hired other designers.

Transylvania’s first botanical garden destroyed in preparation for the construction

The last official statement back in 2008 stated: “The construction is in the former garden of the ‘Prefecture of Cluj County.’ The baroque building has a monumental axis […] The proposed building would cancel this effect [ruin the view of the building- ed. note]. The unity of the ensemble would be altered (palace, yard, garden). The grounds are the single portion of public domain in which the defense ditch of the medieval city is still visible. Because of this, the first botanical garden of Transylvania was founded on the territory of the Nemes-Bethlen House in the 18th century. In that period, all kinds of rare trees were planted here from all regions of Europe. When the grounds were cleared in preparation for the construction, the last rare trees of the garden were destroyed. Among these was one of the oldest Japanese Acacia trees in Transylvania, which was 200 years old. “The dismemberment of the grounds does not automatically mean [they have] the right to build on it.”

After this notice was given by the Regional Commission for Historic Monuments in 2008, the battle for the construction of the “Coffin Hotel” was moved to Bucharest.

Ghișe first changed the project, wanting to expand it. There were several protests in Cluj back then, but approval was finally given and the documents were officially signed in 2013 by Radu Boureanu, secretary of state for the newly elected National Liberal Party.

From that moment, Ghișe could move forward with the project, but there was one house still left on the grounds that stood in his way.

The County Police ordered the head of the construction crew to terminate the project, but the builder simply hired other workers who said: “Well, we don’t know anything.” The house was then demolished — nothing happened because the authorities did nothing.

People’s angry reaction now at the sight of the hotel being built on Petőfi Sándor/Avram Iancu Street comes too late. The construction of the hotel will continue.

Featured photo: stiridecluj.ro

Author: Blanka Székely