|Photo: Qaph blog|
Have a good look at those trees– they’ll be gone soon, if not already dumped somewhere. One of the last open spaces in Verdun, which is already crowded with shopping centers, will be cleared for yet another ABC mall. Construction has already started according to fellow blogger Gino, who posted this picture today:
For years the site had been gated, but the gate seemed rather old. Here is a picture posted by blogger Qaph, who was the first to break the story earlier this month:
In his post, Qaph wrote that the site was formerly the grounds of a St. Joseph school, and judging by the sandstone, it was probably quite old. So why was it demolished? And who sold it to developers?
I had driven by the lot for years but paid little attention to it until I heard Abir Saksouk-Sasso’s talk about the lack of public space in Beirut at the DiverseCities conference earlier this year. Saksouk-Sasso, who is part of the amazing performance activism group Dictaphone, argued that despite state efforts to control and limit public spaces, the public has appropriated “left over spaces” and one of these was the Verdun plot.
So why couldn’t the state or the municipality of Beirut (which has an estimated wealth of near $1 billion) save one plot for its citizens?
|Photo: Skyscraper City|
Ironically plans to build a park were once announced by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri–at least according to Qaph’s post. But ironically those leading the mall project are Hariri-owned companies. Did the late prime minister change his mind?
First announced in 2005, the mall complex was to be built by Hariri son Bahaa’s firm, Horizon and Kipco, which is largely owned by the Kuwaiti royal family. Here is the initial press in early 2005:
|Photo: Skyscraper city|
But those plans, which included a hotel/residential tower and cineplex, have changed markedly over the years.
|Photo: Skyscraper city|
To no towers at all in 2013, according to this rendering published by Beirut.com early last year:
According to a piece in business magazine Lebanon Opportunities, the Kuwaitis are apparently out and now replaced it seems by Lebanon’s ABC group at a 40 percent share. Meanwhile Hariri’s son Bahaa has switched from Horizon to his other construction company, Verdun 1544 Holding. The project is reportedly worth $200 million.
Do all the changes indicate a decrease or renegotiation in capital or relationships?
One thing is for sure, no company in this eco-system represented Beirut residents’ rights to green spaces or the fate of these trees, which are all probably firewood by now:
|Photo: Gino’s Blog|