The Quarterly '97
July - September
Built in record time, this imposing granite and glass structure will house the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia ( ESCWA ). The return of the UN agency to Beirut after an absence of nearly 20 years is an indication of the city's resurgence as a regional hub. "The decision to have the headquarters of our agency in Beirut is a recognition by the member states of the United Nations General Assembly of the central role of this city," said ESCWA'S General Secretary Hazem Biblawi ." This is a message to the world that this vigorous city is back ."
Lined in granite ,the tunnels will boast the most modern lighting and ventilation systems. The lighting is divided into four sections , designed to relieve sudden changes in visibility and to neutralize the black-hole and sudden brightness effects experienced by drivers entering and exiting a tunnel.
The tunnels are also equipped with high-powered fans, placed at designated distances, to push through the air continuously, forcing fumes and dust out to insure proper ventilation and visibility at all times .
Smoke detectors are placed throughout the tunnels and connected to a central system in the control room. They are sensitive to any gradual change in temperature and able to detect a fire the moment it develops. In case a fire erupts inside the tunnels, red light alert and sound alerts will advise cars to stop entering the tunnel until the problem is addressed .
Positioned throughout the tunnel, cameras supervise the traffic and are connected to the control room, where video-taped records are maintained. The control rooms are equipped with the most modern systems, including emergency generators and transformers in case of a power failure. There are two control rooms, one close to the Beirut Trade Center and another near the Phoenicia Hotel, at the entrance to the tunnel .
The General Assembly approved an amendment to the company's Articles of Incorporation that lifts the restriction on ownership and institutions. On September 26,1997, at the Exhibition Hall in Martyr's Square, with a quorum of 99 million shares, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve the amendment to Article 9 that limited ownership of company shares to four categories of investors;
1- BCD property right holders ( owners and tenants );
2- Lebanese nationals and wholly Lebanese companies;
3- The Lebanese state, Lebanese institutions, and the Beirut Municipality ;
4- Persons of Lebanese origin, Arab nationals, and official or semi-official Arab institutions.
The amendment will allow lebanese, Arab and international companies, as well as Arab and international investment funds to buy SOLIDERE shares. Financial analysts expect this to create increased demand on the shares.
The Extraordinary General Assembly also agreed to amend Artical 19, increasing the number of shares that must be owned by each board member to 2,000.
The Council of Ministers has approved both amendments.
SOLIDERE has moved closer to the complete automation of the company's management. Following the successful implementation of the J.D.Edwards program in accounts, investors, projects and contracts, the program will be utilized, starting November, in the areas of procurement and general budget auditing.
The gradual total automation of the company will soon involve other departments, including property management, land and real estate development, and archeology.
SOLIDERE shares registered a marked rise in value during the early part of the third quarter of the year. Sustained throughout the quarter, the rise saw the share price hovering at around $14 during the early part of September, to close at $13.50 for A shares and $13 7/8 for B shares at the end of the month. Demand for SOLIDERE shares outstripped supply at a ratio of 6 to 5. The company GDR's, traded in the London Exchange, registered a slight decrease closing at $16 7/8 at the end of the quarter.
Investor interest in the development and reconstruction of the BCD remains strong, a sign of the general confidence that the Central District will soon regain its regional and international role as a financial and commercial center.
Investments in the BCD projects are expected to total a $2 billion by the end of the century, involving approximately 200 investors, in addition to SOLIDERE.
To date, SOLIDERE has finalized more than 70 promises of sales, totaling $300 million, for development projects in different areas of the BCD.
During the third quarter of the year, SOLIDERE signed promises of sale with Lebanese, Arab and international companies for BCD properties to be developed for a variety of uses. Some of these projects are:
SOLIDERE has completed the landscaping of the Roman Baths, the first public garden to be opened to visitors in the BCD. Located at the base of the Serail, the Roman Baths can also be accessed from Riad El Solh Street, better known as Banking Street. Of the 40 gardens and public areas in the BCD mandated by the master plan, this is the first to be completed. They will all help restore and enhance the attractiveness of the heart of the capital.
The gardens is divided into two parts. The first consists of the Roman Baths proper, restored by SOLIDERE under the supervision of the Directorate General of Antiquities. Special red lighting will illuminate and accent the baths' caldarium and blue lighting will value the frigidarium. The second part consists of the gardens, landscaped to recreate the actual historic environment of the baths, which served as a social gathering place for leisure and relaxation.
In addition to the different kinds of trees and shrubs that will restore to the Roman Baths their original look and scents, the garden also includes an area for cultural events, accessible to the handicapped, and a lighting system that highlights the beautifully landscaped slopes that surround the site. Sandstoner was used to line the garden walls, and bricks pave the pedestrian walks. Ample benches and garbage containers, made of dark wood, have been placed throughout the gardens.
Less than three years since the start of the works, the Beirut Central District is regaining its attractiveness as the restoration of many of its buildings is completed. Of particular note are those in the commercial sector of Foch-Allenby which have a historic and diversified architecture, characterized by facades decorated and sculpted from yellow stone, inspired from Islamic, Ottoman, Italian, and French styles. Elegant wrought iron works add beauty to their balconies and facades. Currently, 121 buildings, whose owners have obtained permits to proceed, are under restoration, while 24 permits are being processed in accordance with guidelines stipulated by SOLIDERE and approved by the Directorate General of Urban Planning.
Constructed by SOLIDERE on Riad El Solh square at the southern entrance to the BCD, the new building will host the regional headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), in addition to the offices of other international agencies in Lebanon. This building is one of five development projects that the company will complete during its Phase One ending at the end of the century.
Built in line with international standards and the most modern technical specifications, the new construction is an "intelligent building", in that its maintenance and management are fully automated. Fire detection and audio-visual alert and control systems allow for the immediate detection of any problems in need of attention.
The building is serviced by eight elevators and security cameras and doors that will allow ESCWA and other employees in possession of special magnetic cards to walk through unimpeded.
The facade of the building is in yellow granite that melds with adjacent and nearby buildings on Riad El Solh Street and aluminium and glass windows designed to reflect the heat of the sun. An imposing 600 square meter inner garden court provides all floors with an attractive view. Situated only 10 minutes from the airport and a few meters from Banking Street, the new building provides underground parking facilities for 500 cars.
HRH Saudi Prince Salman Ben Abdel Aziz, accompanied by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, visited SOLIDERE's information center where they were briefed about the reconstruction works in the Central District by Chairman and General Manager Nasser Chammaa. Following the briefing, Prince Salman and Prime Minister Hariri toured the BCD in the company of Dr. Chammaa to witness the works first hand.
Other dignitaries to visit SOLIDERE and the BCD in this last quarter include Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri, the minister of Water and Electricity resources in the UAE Hameed Ben Nasser Al Oueiss, the former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Ibrahimi, Brazilian Speaker of Parliament Miguel Temer, the prime Minister of the Australian state of New South Wales Bob Carr, U.S Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones, Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Rivas, and Arab and international representatives of different industrial, commercial and financial institutions.
The "Archaic Procession", a collection of metal statues by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam has made an appearance on the periphery of the BCD, from where it is observing the on-going reconstruction of the city center. Before arriving in Beirut, these metal creatures spent time in Tokyo, Prague, Paris and South Korea. In Beirut, says Karam, they will be moving around the BCD for the next three years to become better acquainted with "and to oversee" the development of works.
An international committee meeting in Hanover has recommended that SOLIDERE's development and reconstruction of the BCD be named as a special EXPO 2000 project. EXPO 2000 is the upcoming world fair being organized in that german city and expected to draw 40 million visitors.
In naming SOLIDERE, the international selection committee referred specifically to the company's attention to environmental issues and the 10,000 employment opportunities the project is creating.
This is the second time SOLIDERE receives high-level international recognition for its project. In June 1996, SOLIDERE was named one of the United Nations "100 best practices" at the Habitat 11 conference organised in Istanbul. Devoted to issues of human settlement, Habitat is organized once every 20 years.
For more information Email : Solidere@Lebanon.com
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