Turkey plans to build mosque on site of Istanbul's first beer factory

By Ali Kucukgocmen
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Turkey plans to build mosque on site of Istanbul's first beer factory

Parts of the historic Bomonti beer factory complex are seen in Istanbul

By Ali Kucukgocmen

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's first modern beer factory could face demolition after being transferred to the country's highest religious authority, which plans to build a mosque and a car park in its place, architects and engineers say.

The long-defunct Bomonti factory was built in the late Ottoman era and gave its name to the Istanbul neighbourhood where it has stood since the 1890s. It is registered as a historic site by the city's conservation board.

"The structures are very important. It takes you to the past," said a member of the Istanbul Architects Chamber, who lamented the plans for the factory's demolition.

"It is more than an architectural heritage. The Bomonti beer factory was very special," the architect, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

She said Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, planned to build a mosque, a dormitory, car park and exhibition space in place of the factory. Diyanet officials were not available for comment on Wednesday.

Other parts of the factory were demolished about 10 years ago to build a hotel, while another building was sold off and currently houses bars, restaurants and cultural venues.

Demolition of historic structures to make way for Istanbul's urban development has angered residents. Plans to build a shopping mall and replica of an Ottoman barracks on Gezi park in the city centre sparked mass protests in 2013.

The remaining parts of the Bomonti factory were held until recently by the Treasury. "There have been repeated applications to demolish the other buildings," the architect said. "After 2017, that area was given to the Diyanet and then they prepared a project."

She said a demolition licence had not yet been issued and the country's engineers and architects union (TMOBB) plans to take legal action to prevent it once they receive official documents of the project.

"The judiciary is usually late to halt the implementation. What needs to happen is for the local government and the people of Istanbul to stop this wrong practice," the architect added.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans)