Saturday, July 08, 2006
Holiday Inn, Downtown. What's Up?
Have you ever wondered why the Holiday Inn in Downtown Beirut remains a hollowed-out ruin; in stark contrast to its next door neighbor, The Phoenicia, and the rest of Downtown Beirut?
Well, to be honest with you, like the majority of Beirutis and Lebanese, I have simply reconciled myself with the structure, and come to see it as simply another part of the landscape. This phenomenon reminds me of how individuals living in former heavily mined war-zones simply get used to deadly contraptions in their environment, and live as if things were always that way - to them, the mines become "normal."
Anyways, going back to the main point of this entry: why is it that the Holiday Inn (one of Beirut's largest buildings) still awaits renovation? I always thought that it was such a large structure with so much damage that finding an investor willing to commit the necessary resources was, and remains, an impossible task. However, considering the amount of money currently being poured into Lebanon's real-estate and tourism industries, such a hypothesis simply falls apart.
Indeed, the problem is not, and has never been a lack of investors. The effective owners of the hotel (an investment firm linked to the Kuwaiti government) have been anxious to renovate the structure and launch a new hotel for quite some time now (i.e. years). Unfortunately though, they are faced with an obstacle that is an all too familiar one in Lebanon: tenants who pay rent based on the old rent laws, and who refuse to leave!
How has this happened? How does a hotel host tenants?
Well, it turns out that even though the building carries the Holiday Inn logo, it was never entirely a hotel! Rather, it was split into two sections of roughly equal proportions: one section was the actual hotel, and the other was an office building. And today, it appears that there are a handful of tenants who refuse to leave their premises, and in doing so, prevent the building’s owners from realizing their plans.
Considering the ordeal that the Holiday Inn is currently experiencing, I wonder what Downtown would have looked like today had Solidere not existed.
*photo courtesy of al Mashriq