Construction interests united the church, archaeologists and architects to start protesting against plans for a 22-storey building meant to replace Rila hotel in the heart of Sofia.
In an interview with private broadcaster bTV on July 10, a representative of the St Nikolai ancient church behind the hotel said that the construction of the hotel in the 1940s caused a partial reduction of the church yard and cracking of one of the church walls. It is feared that new construction could further damage the church.
Architects, for their part, said that the new building is envisioned with eight underground storeys, which was dangerous because the underground waters in Sofia were close to the surface. “I am sure this would cause sinking of some of the nearby buildings. I hope none of them will fall down, which is also possible,” one architect told bTV.
In the summer of 2007, representatives of the construction and tourism industry considered the location of Rila hotel as an attractive spot for business tourism, Bulgarian-language daily Dnevnik reported.
Hotel Rila was privatised in 2000, with private firm Riel 99 bought 51 per cent of its shares. Currently Riel 99 already controls 95 per cent of the hotel, with the Economy Ministry holding two per cent of the shares.
In 2004, the Greek Daskalantonakis Group, which is the largest group operating in the hospitality field in Bulgaria’s southern neighbour, started negotiations to acquire Rila hotel. By mid-2005, the Jewish organisation in Bulgaria Shalom had claims over the land where Rila was built, but its case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Cassation.
According to media reports, Riel 99 has close ties with Bulgaria's richest man Vassil Bozhkov, who also owns the casino in Hotel Rila.