Being perhaps the most unique urban reconstruction and city regeneration projects of its kind regionally and internationally, the multi-billion dollar Beirut City Centre project involves the development and reconstruction of the traditional Beirut City Centre into the ‘finest City Centre in the Middle East’.

A mixed-use development, the Beirut City Centre covers over 1.9 million square meters of prime land, of which one third is reclaimed from the sea. On this land, Solidere is developing 4.69 millions m2 of built-up-space featuring 40% residential, 50% commercial and offices and 10% hotels, cultural and leisure services.

 Phase One of the Beirut City Centre project, which was successfully completed, saw the installation of top-of-the-line infrastructure and utilities and the reconstitution of the public domain. Highlights include restoration of more than 90% of retained buildings, construction of the Beirut Marina and one-kilometre sea defence structure and execution of new development projects including the United Nations (UN) building, the Embassy complex, Saifi Village residential district, as well as the start of development of residential blocks in the Wadi Abu Jamil residential sector and a number of prominent residential, and office buildings in other sectors of the City Center.

 As for the second phase of the project, it will commence with the launching of the Beirut Souks above-ground structures, and will also focus on the development of the Martyr’s Square axis and the New Waterfront District, marking the internationalisation of the project and the re-launching of Beirut as a world city of the region. It involves real estate developments around Beirut Marina, completing the infrastructure in the waterfront district, landscaping the waterside park and corniche promenades, developing the eastern marina and launching high-rise developments with a distinct architectural style that will bring a new identity to the city. This will intensify the thrust towards making Beirut City Centre a favored location for international businesses, financial and other specialized services and institutions, as well as a touristic destination and a prime residential area.

Eleven developers presently developing projects in the Solidere area will be exhibiting at Cityscape, whereas each company will be presenting its project separately. These companies include Al Wadi Grand Residence, F.F.A, ESDS, DBA & Sons, Mouawad Projects, Stow, Beirut Trade, Landmark, Deyaar Development, C.A.R.E. Group and Capital Plaza.

Solidere currently has strong financial and developmental fundamentals which are promising for the future, as the Company enjoys financial capabilities comprising a Land Bank consisting of prime land for development with a book value of approximately USD$ 1.6 billion, while if we consider the prevailing market selling prices, its market value is estimated at USD$ 4.5 billion. Solidere also has a portfolio of finished real estate properties currently valued at US$300 million and which are generating US$19 million of rental income per year. This annual rental income is expected to increase to US$50 million in 2007 after the completion of the Souks project when the portfolio is expected to reach a value of US$800 million.

Furthermore, Solidere was able to decrease its debt in year 2003 from around USD$ 400 million to USD$ 319 million, and subsequently to the 2002 level of USD$ 234 million end of 2004. Currently the debt has reached USD$ 180 million, and is expected to drop even more to reach USD$ 130 million by the end of the current year 2005. Solidere is also considering listing its shares on other regional exchanges.

In addition, Solidere listed in March 2005 its shares on the Kuwait Stock Exchange, besides being traded at the Beirut Stock Exchange, while its GDR’s are traded on the London Stock Exchange. This will help the company’s expand its shareholders’ base and enhance its share trading activity, which will lead to improving the current share price, which does not reflect the true value of the company’s assets.

On top of the advanced infrastructure that Beirut City Centre stands out with, a new fiber optic based broadband telecommunication network will be installed and will become operational by 2006 and will be a high bandwidth state-of-the-art network allowing residents and corporations to benefit from a wide range of telecommunication services. The Beirut Souks project is expected to play a major role in reactivating the City Center of Beirut, and transform it into a global high street retail destination.

The reduction in the company’s borrowing level will reduce substantially the cost of debt service which will contribute to higher profits allowing the company to distribute dividends to its shareholders.

Randa Armanazi, Public Relations Manager, Solidere, said: ‘We are honored to be a part of Cityscape for the second time. It provides an excellent opportunity to network with leading professionals from the real estate industry and share ideas, information and know-how.’

Displayed at the modishly designed Solidere pavilion No. 711, Hall No. 7 will be a scale model of the project featuring the restoration and new developments taking place simultaneously to revive the traditional city centre as a hub of business, finance, culture and leisure.

Armanazi commented that the Beirut City Centre reflects the architectural renaissance of the city in its unique reconciliation between preservation and contemporary development. ‘We have broken away with the traditional business district model by developing an innovative multi-function and residential city centre around the restored historic core. In executing this task, we have made judicious use of the site’s natural assets, archaeology, urban and architectural heritage by adopting stringent preservation policies.Solidere has also established an Art District ‘Quartier des Arts’ in Beirut Center, to highlight Beirut’s cultural role and position the city as the capital of Arts in the Middle East’.

Today, with its reconstituted urban fabric and restoration of historic streetscapes and buildings, the Beirut City Centre is a shining example of the fast paced regeneration and growth, which characterises the city of Beirut and its renewed aspirations. ‘With this project, we have succeeded in recreating life in the heart of Beirut, making it once more the melting pot where the young and the old from various countries and walks of life come together.’

‘The Beirut City Centre has already received international acclaim as a model of sustainable urban development. We look forward to receiving a similar response from the regional and international investors’ community at Cityscape 2005,’ concluded Armanazi.