April - June 2000
Enjoying Beirut city center

Planet Discovery

Planet Discovery children's science museum has recently established a Microsoft electronic library for the young. The library, located in the new waterfront exhibition center, is equipped with 20 computers, all with internet link, flat-bed scanner, cameras and printers, with Windows 2000, Office 2000, Visual Studio, Encarta and many more CD ROMs and software.
     At the inauguration on June 9, SOLIDERE vice-chairman Maher Beydoun thanked Microsoft's marketing services manager Helena Gilman for her role in securing the funding and her continued support to the project. Mr. Beydoun expressed the hope that the new learning center would bring Lebanon's children up to date on technological advances and help develop the country's natural capabilities in information technology.
     The library is attracting interest on the part of individuals and groups. It use is free, with qualified Microsoft instructors secured through sponsorships. Audi Bank is the sponsor for this summer. Internet and multimedia training can be obtained at a nominal fee of LP3,000 per hour.
      Cultural and artistic workshops for the 3- to 13-year olds were held in Planet discovery during the April 20 to May 1 school vacation.
      The results of the school competition on the theme of water, organized in collaboration with the Cité des Sciences et l'Industrie at La Villette, Paris, wew published in June. Students from the Saints-Coeurs Hadath school won first prize in the national competition and eighth prize in the international competition involving 750 participants from 50 countries. The 15-year old students presented a video play on Akhwat Shanay, the 19th century ingenious village fool who gave the idea of drawing water from Nabeh as-Safa spring up to Emir Bechir's palace in Beiteddine. Students from Lycée Franco-Libanais and Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour ranked second and third in the national competition.
      In cooperation with the Rotar Club, SOLIDERE is landscaping a traffic educational garden on the Planet Discovery site. Children between the ages of 5 and 7 will be taught traffic regulations and signs, and learn about safe driving. Pending the completion of the project, a temporary driving circuit will be available starting mid-July.

Children from the South get acquainted with the city center

  The city center and Planet Discovery have welcomed children from the newly liberated area of Lebanon, some of whom were on their first visit to Beirut.
     SOLIDERE invited South Lebanon and West Bekaa schools to send one class each to Planet Discovery. A class of 41 children from Deir Machmouche school visited on June 6. In the genetics and biology section, they tested all the instruments and took part
 in experiments. They also got acquainted with the Microsoft electronic library, and then toured the downtown area.
         6,000 students from the South poured into the capital on June 25, at the invitation of the Hariri Foundation. They toured Parliament building, Nejmeh square, religious buildings and the Roman Baths. They visited Planet Discovery and its e-library in small groups, and had lunch at the Souk al Barghout.

Souk Al Barghout
Permanent and temporary activities are now merging in Beirut city center, much to the enjoyment of young and old.
     In Foch street, banners evoking the city's history were suspended on the ornamental light pole.
     The Souk al Barghout flea market, the fourteenth organized by SOLIDERE since its inception in 1994, was held this time in Foch, Urguay and Argentine Streets, starting May 24. Daily from 6 pm, the Souk, always popular, has been drawing large crowds of people who spend the long evenings shopping, or browsing through the wonderful array of antiques, paintings, jewelry, handicrafts and carpets, on display in the various shops and stalls in and around the beautifully restored buildings.
     At Weekends, children have been given the chance to try their hand at selling, by displaying their own handicrafts, CD's, books and toys.
     Having proved to be a real success, the Souk has been extended until August 31, by poplar demand.
     Both in Souk Al Barghout and in the Maarad and Nejmeh areas, the public is given a choice of street walk cafés where they can enjoy delicious specialties while taking part in street life.
     Residents, returnees and visitors are thus reclaiming the city center's open space, walking, jogging, riding bicycles or pushing baby carriages, in addition to shopping or resting in public gardens.

Beirut city center: a sustainable urban development
SOLIDERE was awarded a gold medal on June 17 at the EXPO2000 exhibition in Hannover, Germany, for its model role in urban reconstruction. Oussama Kabbani, town planning manager, represented SOLIDERE in the award distribution ceremony.
      The reconstruction of Beirut city center was among the worldwide projects selected by EXPO as "some of the most interesting, sustainable and practical projects of the present day. These projects reveal in a highly impressive way how ideas have been translated into practical reality."
      SOLIDERE has previously been selected as one of the Global Best Practices displayed during the United Nations conference on human settlements, at the Habitat II exhibition in Istanbul in June 1996.
The art of sustainable cities in the Middle East, theme of AR Dubai conference
SOLIDERE was present at the Architectural Review conference on 'the Art of Sustainable Cities in the Middle East', held in Dubai on May 29-30. In a lecture entitled 'the regeneration of city centers: creating value, sustainability and identity - in central Beirut, a unique model of inner city renewal', Angus Gavin, planning advisor to the Chairman, spoke of sustainability as it affected the urban planning of Beirut city center and now the implementation of the project.
      The renewal of central Beirut is based on the broad principles of sustainability as they relate to the development of recycled urban land.
      The recovery of environmental values is expressed in the reclamation engineering and landfill decontamination on the waterfront; and in the extensive open space program involving 38 ha of green space and waterfront promenades.
      SOLIDERE is 'developing the finest city center in the Middle East': a new form of sustainable, 'wired', mixed-use, residential downtown that is also the city's main employment center, visitor destination and cultural focus.
       Mr. Gavin believes a new sense of urbanity and sophisticated urban living is coming back into vogue, demonstrating a hidden need. It is expressed in Europe's 'urban villages' movement, in the 'new urbanism' of the United States and in a growing number of successful inner city renewal ventures that offer a distinct alternative to the car-based isolation of modern suburban living.
      Far from generating an exponential demand for ex-urban self-sufficiency and home working, the telecommunications revolution has instead made people more aware of the need for social contact and the types of human interaction, chance encounter, cultural and leisure activities that are only plentifully available in the central city.
      In a sense it is a distinctly Mediterranean idea - the rediscovery of some of the fundamental causes of city formation and benefits of city life: the meeting point, the 'agora', cultural focus and place of exchange of goods, services, information and ideass. Perhaps, he said, we are bringing the concept back to its Mediterranean origins.
New occupants in the city center
An increasing number of international and national institutions are operating in Beirut city center.
      Several United Nations agencies, located in UN House, are expanding their activities in Lebanon. A regional UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) office, established since June, now serves Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Beirut municipality will be moving to the restored old Municipality building in Weygand street during the summer.
      New names are being added to the list of multinationals established in the city center. Beginning July, Coca Cola International Near East will relocate there from Cyprus. Their new regional headquarters, in the Asseily building in Riad El Solh Square, will cover Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen, Cisco Systems, the multinational networking specialist, has signed a long-term lease for a first floor office in Building 157 in the Foch-Allenby area. They plan to open in August.
      Having joined other financial institutions in the city center, ABN-AMRO Bank is housed in 1316 Marfaa, in Riad El Solh street. Arab Reinsurance company has moved to its new headquarters in Maarad street in mid-June. Crédit commercial de France will be moving in at the end of the summer to building 170 in the Foch Allenby area. Merrill Lynch will be housed in the Atrium building at the corner of Weygand and Maarad streets.
      Consulting Clinics Beirut, under construction in the Saifi area, will be completed by October 15.
      Fattal Holding building is under construction on lot  1336 Minet El Hosn in Patriarch Howayek street.