Tarlabasi is a neighborhood in Istanbul currently taking a punch to the gut. Originally populated by large numbers of Greeks in the 19th century, today it's home to mostly poor Kurdish and Roma families and African migrants desperate for work. By most definitions, it is an urban slum. A slum however that happens to sit on prime real estate just steps from Taksim Square in the center of Beyoglu, a combination ripe for gentrification. The mayor of the district has stated he means to turn Tarlabasi Boulevard into the 'Champs Elysee of Istanbul', and a massive 'neighborhood regeneration' project is underway.
The demolitions started in early 2012. On steep streets near the boulevard it doesn't take long to notice empty buildings, many historic bowfront style houses now rotting with garbage like open wounds. As the project inches along, half-razed vacant lots become playgrounds for the neighborhood's legions of children during the day, but by night they're halfway houses for the homeless, office space for prostitutes, and storage depots for families who eek out a living selling recyclable materials scavenged from rubbish or empty houses.
Nearly three hundred buildings will be affected by the construction. Some families accepted buyouts from the company to relocate to the city's outskirts, but others are still holding out, reluctant to leave the only neighborhood they've known. Against the backdrop of jackhammers and inevitable change, life carries on.
Produced with location help from fixer in Turkey Mert Gürel.