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A photo of the historic Art Deco building being demolished in the Gemayzeh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon
A photo of the historic Art Deco building being demolished in the Gemayzeh neighborhood of Beirut, Lebanon
Gemayzeh residents woke up Friday to the sound of a historic Art Deco building being demolished, prompting complaints from local businesses and politicians. The corner building, which has been empty for several years, was built during the French Mandate period, and like many constructions along picturesque Gouraud Street, it boasts a number of distinctive features, including stylized wrought iron balcony railings and bay windows.

MP Walid Jumblatt Monday blamed the culture minister and the governor of Beirut for the ongoing demolition of the historic Art Deco building in Gemayzeh.

“With the destruction of an old building in Gemayzeh that dates back to the 20s during the French mandate period and knocking down a new archaeological site in Gemayzeh to build a tower to earn hefty profits, one would wonder about the role of the Ministry of Culture in this issue and the role of the governor of Beirut who allowed this to happen,” Jumblatt wrote in his weekly column for Al-Anbaa newspaper.

“Perhaps no one has drawn the ministry’s or the governorate’s attention to the importance of this historical building or the presence of Roman remains in that region that could be exposed to theft or destruction resulting from the establishment of a residential building even though the property is very small and does not accommodate large and luxurious projects,” he added.

Jumblatt slammed this “destructive policy” and called for immediate action to stop these projects before “drowning Beirut in more systematic distortion.”

Gemayzeh residents woke up Friday to the sound the historic building being torn down. The building still stands, but is being dismantled bit-by-bit.

The building, which has been empty for several years, boasts a number of distinctive features, including stylized wrought iron balcony railings and bay windows.

Culture Minister Raymond Areiji had said that he tried to save it by freezing the demolition request, but was overruled by the Shura Council, a body that checks the legality of administrative decisions and whose decision is final.

The only option available to the ministry was to compensate the owner, engineer Mohammad Rashid Atweh, which it was not able to do.

Although he could not recall the specific file for Atweh’s property, Beirut Governor Ziad Chebib, who gives final approval to all such requests, said the law was clear: “If the owners or builders have a license, their work’s status is legal.”

The Daily Star

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