The Quarterly '97
April - June
"... We are here next to Martyrs' Square, a place that you have also named Freedom Square, Unity Square."
May 11, 1997: Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass in front of hundreds of thousands in the Central District of Beirut. In the second day of his historic visit to Lebanon, John Paul II tells the crowd gathered by the waterfront: "I will not forget that we are here next to Martyrs' Square, historically the heart of Beirut, a place that you have also named Freedom Square, Unity Square." At the end of the Mass, Lebanese President Elias Hraoui thanked all those who helped with the organization of the event, and "in particular, SOLIDERE" for preparing the site and providing all the necessary equipment.
The restoration of retained buildings continues throughout the Central District, with a number of remarkable accomplishments already visible. The restoration of all buildings, whether the property of SOLIDERE or recuperated by their owners, is being carried out in accordance with development briefs and procedures elaborated by the company and approved by the Directorate General of Urban Planning. The distinct character of the Central District's neighborhoods is being maintained through careful restoration of each facade.
Current works in the area include 140 buildings whose owners have obtained the necessary permits to proceed from the municipality of Beirut. By the end of 1998, all 265 retained buildings will have been restored.
on Riad El Solh Square
and Nejmeh Square
After one year of painstaking work, the restoration of the Martyrs' Square statue is now completed. Restoration works were carried out at the university of the Holy Ghost-Kaslik, under the supervision of Dr. Issam Khairallah, director of the Restoration Department, and British expert Robert Harris.
Financed by SOLIDERE, the repair works included restructuring the statue's support base, welding its parts, treatment of rust and corrosion, and restoration of its original color. The statue's severed right hand, recovered after being lost in the rubble of the war, and its left hand, partially destroyed by artillery and also only recently recovered, were both welded back in their original positions.
The return of the statue to Martyrs' Square is set for 1998 following the completion of infrastructure works in that area.
A view of the General Assembly meeting on June 30
-On June 30, 1997, SOLIDERE's Extraordinary General Assembly approved the proposal of the Board of Directors to reduce the company's share capital by US$170 million-equivalent to a reduction of 17 million A-shares. Following this reduction in the number of shares, the company's capital will be US$1,650 million, broken down into 100 million A-shares with a total par value of US$1,000 million, and 65 million B-shares with a total par value of US$650 million. The total number of shares represented at the General Assembly, by shareholders or legal proxies, was 83,277,053.
The decision to reduce by approximately 10 % the number of shares was well received by the local and international financial communities. The capital reduction eliminates the possibility of reissuing these shares on the market, and allows for greater earnings, per share, for the remaining stock.
Concurrently, the process of distribution of A-shares is nearing completion. It is expected that distribution of the remaining shares, totaling US$115 million, will be completed within the next few months.
The General Assembly also elected the following as members of the board of Directors: Nasser Chammaa, Nabil Boustany, Maher Beydoun, Joseph Asseily, Raphael Sabbagha, Maher Daouk, Basile Yared, Fouad Al Khazen, Sarkis Demerjian, Sami Nahas, and Abdallah BaHamdan. Mohammed Ghaziri remains the representative of the State and the Beirut Municipality on the Board. In turn, the board elected Nasser Chammaa as chairman and general manager, Nabil Boustany and Maher Beydoun as vice chairman, and Rapahel Sabbagha as secretary general.
Approximately five million SOLIDERE shares were traded during the second quarter of the year. Closing prices for June were $11 for A-shares and US$11.25 for B-shares, representing an increase of around 2.5 % for both types of shares.
Internationally, SOLIDERE's Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs) registered a substantial increase, trading at about $18 on the London Stock Exchange during the latter part of June.
Infrastructure works continue to advance throughout the Central District, notably in the completion of bridges and tunnels as evident in the Ghalghoul intersection, where the structure of the main overpass and ramps can now be seen. The installation of light units continues in the George Haddad underpass, as well as in the underpass in the Hotel District, Riad el Solh Square, in the tunnel connecting Fouad Chehab Avenue to the end of Fakhreddine Street, and the tunnel linking Fouad Chehab Avenue to Hamra area. The inside walls of the underpass are all being lined in granite. The quality of construction and material used in these works is an indication of the standards being applied in the reconstruction of the BCD.
Final finishing works have also started on the Fouad Chehab overpass where it intersects Bechara Khoury Street. The majority of streets extending from the Franciscan Capuchin Church to Omar Daouk Street and the Starco building area will soon be open to traffic.
By the end of June, over 60 % of the total infrastructure works had been completed.
Work in progress on the tunnel linking Fakhreddine Street to the Fouad Chehab overpass
Infrastructure works have gone a long way in the Weygand Street area
The installation of street furniture in the BCD will begin in the coming months, starting from the areas where primary infrastructure works have been completed, namely in the streets around Foch, Allenby, and Nejmeh Square, including Maarad Street.
Before the end of the year, samples of the different designs will be in place in Beyhoum and Zaghloul streets, both of which intersect Foch and Allenby. Some of the streets in this area are dedicated to pedestrians.
Attention to the landscape and street furniture of the BCD involves organizing special access ramps for the handicapped, the design and installation of street and traffic lights and signals, benches, telephone booths, newsstands and billboards. Flower beds and trees will adorn the pavements, protected by ornamented iron fences.
Two styles of urban furniture will be used in the BCD, one in the historic core of the city center and another in the new land and areas dominated by new developments.
A main feature of the landscape of the Conservation Area, or the historic core of the Central District, will be the recognition and appreciation of the identity of the area. There, the street furniture will reflect the history of the districts of the capital. Streets will be paved with black basalt set patterns, as they were in the early part of the century.
Attractive yellow limestone curbs will harmonize with the colors of the surrounding facades, while ramps for the physically handicapped will be contrasted by their different color. Street lighting will rely on posts and lanterns characterized by traditional, ornamented iron designs.
Seasonal flowers of rich and different colors will cover the Foch Street traffic island, adding a radiant stamp to the area. Palm trees will be planted in Nejmeh Square and some of its surrounding streets.
This interest in preserving the special character of each area of the BCD will be further highlighted with the organization of the urban furniture of the Saifi and Wadi Abou Jamil residential neighborhood.
The landscape also provides for a strong and assertive contemporary look in areas influenced predominantly or entirely by new developments and architecture, such as the Hotel District and the land reclaimed from the sea. There, high quality tiles with simple modern designs will cover the pavements. Light posts will be in contemporary styles with special, advanced features and technical standards. The avenues will be planted with ever-green trees and with seasonal flowers of a wide variety of colors.
Within the framework of the SOLIDERE plan, the placement of street furniture will be executed gradually and at different intervals, concurrent with the infrastructure works and the restoration of the preserved buildings.
Starting from the Hotel District, SOLIDERE has begun implementation of the master plan for the development and reconstruction of the BCD. The master plan divides the Central District into 10 areas, each with its own set of specifications and regulations governing its different uses and urban character.
The Hotel District comprises the area between St. George's Bay to the border of Wadi Abu Jamil neighborhood to the south, east to the Souks, and west to the borders of the Phoenicia Hotel.
Perkins and Will of New York, Koetter Kim & Associates of Boston, and City Formation International of Toronto have been contracted to act as urban planning consultants in the elaboration of a detailed plan for the Hotel District. SOLIDERE's objectives from these studies are to:
The second quarter of 1997 saw the start of construction on the 4-star Forum International Hotel in the Saifi area of the Central District. This is the first of a series of luxury hotels to be built in the BCD and scheduled for completion before the year 2000.
Others include the 5-star hotel Farha Group to be constructed on Park Avenue and the Four Seasons Hotel to be built by Prince Walid bin Talal in the St. George area, adjacent to a hotel and residential development by a Malaysian group on 8,000 square meters of land overseeing the park and the waterfront.
Two other 4- and 5-star hotels are to be built in the Hotel District. An annex to Hilton Hotel will be constructed as part of its complete restoration and renovation plans.
President Elias Hraoui toured the BCD project with Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, for an update on the development and reconstruction of the city center of the Lebanese capital.
The Beirut Central District reconstruction project remains an essential stop for all those visiting the country, whether on personal or official trips. Visitors to the city center project during the second quarter of the year included the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abdul Aziz who toured the BCD in the company of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
The BCD and SOLIDERE were also visited by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Bavarian Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Hans Spitzner, Qatari Minister of Agriculture, Rural and Municipal Affairs Ali Bin Said Al Khayarin, Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance and Economy Ibrahim Assaf, President of the Japanese Liberal Party Yoshiro Mori, in addition to ambassadors, financial and commercial managers representing regional and international companies and institutions.
For more information Email : Solidere@Lebanon.com
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