Marina City Liban: gunning for glory on Beirut beaches

Lebanon's second largest construction project is due to start next year at a cost of US $326 million to complete

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By  Eudore Chand Published  September 11, 2004

Cross-border project|~|Front-Page.jpg|~|Artist impression|~|The fever to build iconic waterfront tourism promoting developments, pioneered by Dubai with projects such as Burj Al Arab complex and the Palms, is spreading. Developers are ignoring national boundaries and forming multinational partnerships in search of profits across the region. Thus you have a Malaysia-registered Saudi Arabian investment bank promoting a US $326 million real estate development project on the shores of the Mediterranean in Lebanon. The owning company, Marina City International, too is registered in Malaysia. What sets this project evenfurther apart is that the rich and the corporates from across the Arab world are being offered partnerships in developing the project on the 2.5 km long stretch of the Al Maten coastline, north of Beirut. Promoter and sponsor Rusd Investment Bank chairman Dr. Saleh Jamil Malaekah, claims that the Marina City Liban is considered to be the second largest project in Lebanon after Solidaire’s redevelopment of Beirut’s central business district. Though it will cost $326 million to build over the 81 000 m2 of land it owns, the capital of the company promoting the project will be $190 million, said Malaekah. The original developer Joseph Khoury, who had reclaimed the land, owns 25% of the equity. A strategic investor has taken another 15% shareholding, said Adnan Mohammed Talmisany, Rusd Investment Bank vice-president for investment services. However, he would not reveal the identity or the nationality of the mysterious ‘strategic’ investor. Several names are attached to large real estate developments in Lebanon and particularly Beirut, including that of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri, UAE’s Khalaf Al Habtoor and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Rusd Investment Bank holds the balance 60% shares in the company. Of this, it is offloading 60%, worth close to $117 million to investors across the region. Following the private placement, the bank will retain 12% shareholding in the developer company, Talmisany said. Each of the 1 169 230 shares is being sold at $100. The offer will close by the end of this month or earlier if the target is reached, Talmisany told Construction Week. “It is a rare set of land on the Mediterranean and we shall build a residential, commercial and tourism development project,” said Rusd chairman Malaekah, while pointing out that the target shareholding partner group is the 15 million Lebanese diaspora spread throughout the world, other Arabs and the resident Lebanese. “It is a prestigious location, address and neighbourhood in the congested city of Beirut.” “Lebanon is a favourite tourism destination in the Middle East,” Talmisany pointed out adding that: “We cannot compare the UAE and Lebanon as each has its own style and lifestyle.”||**||Design finalisation soon|~|Marina-City-VP.jpg|~|Adnan Mohammed Talmisany|~|Rusd Bank is planning a project each in UAE and Makkah, each of over $200 million in size. But Talmisany would not release any further details. He said at this stage, Marina City Liban designs have been received from various architects working individually or in consortia. Decision on the final selection will be made this month. The main contractor will then be selected and actual construction is likely to start in the next couple of months or by the first of 2005. “By the beginning of next year, we shall have finalised the main contractor. The project is unique and the tender invitations will be international. The project will take about 30 to 36 months to be fully completed,” said Talmisany. He said that, as a bank, Rusd is familiar with real estate projects: “We have handled more than $500 million worth of business related to construction. We understand its set up, its concepts and how to manage its portfolio. We believe that real estate is the most interesting investment in the region, and especially in projects such as this one in which we are expecting a yield of 32%.” Talmisany explained that yield forecasts were especially high given that Marina City Liban is situated in front of a huge private marina that can hold about 700 yachts. Marina Joseph Khoury Beirut is the largest marina in the Middle East and will be the main platform of the entire project. It is close to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and services luxurious yachts and sailboats roaming the Mediterranean seas the year round. It has become a main tourist destination. The marina was a massive land reclamation totalling close to 800 000 m2. “Marina City Liban is also strategically located in Dbayeh, the most luxurious area in Beirut where 18% of the wealthiest Lebanese families reside. According to projected statistics, tourism in Beirut is growing at the rate of 8% a year. The project is a unique addition to the huge projects that have recently appeared in Beirut within the last few years and is the last of the projects to be carried out on the Beirut coastline in a modern luxurious design. Marina City Liban is a very positive project and we expect good returns,” Talmisany said.||**||Massive development|~|Land.jpg|~|The site of the project|~|The 81 000 m2 project will would include a residential complex of 150 units of sizes ranging from 300 m2 to 900 m2. The residential tower will cover 7011 m2 over 15 floors. The complex will also have 170 furnished apartments and a hotel with 270 rooms. There will be a banquet hall with a capacity for 1000 people. The complex will also feature a 74 000 m2 three-level shopping mall overlooking the marina. Marina City Liban will have a complex of 200 timeshare units. This unique venture is the only one in Lebanon to offer timeshare rooms on a total of 60 000 m2. “International hotels and timeshare companies are showing interest, many of which have already invested in the project. The entire project will be sold out within the first four years of completion,” Rusd chairman Maleakha said. The mall project features a number of restaurants, cafes, three of the most well known department stores in Lebanon, a cinema complex with more than 12 cinema halls and a number of fast food outlets. The huge three-level shopping mall will have a net retail and leisure space of 74 100 m2. It is being seen as the future shopping area of Beirut. It will also house stores of the most well known international brands, information centre and internal and external playgrounds for children, apart from other facilities. Marina City Liban’s car park can accommodate 2700 cars in addition to other areas that will be used for car parking for an additional 800 cars. The 81 611 m2 area is divided into Package A and B. The first covers 61 814 m2 and its development will commence immediately, while 19 797 m2 Package B development will be in the next phase. Package A includes the shopping mall, residential buildings and furnished apartments building. Package B comprises the timeshare units and the luxury hotel development. Planned development will be on 26 plots. The sponsor has committed to develop a minimum of 20 plots of Package A. “The venture answers to the increase in demand for real estate properties in Beirut, particularly in hotels and leisure facilities and will boost the country in its efforts to regain its position as one of the most important cities in the Middle East. Arab investors have already shown a great interest in Lebanon following the completion of major projects such as Solidaire,” Talmisany said. Chairman Malaekah said: “Marina City Liban is a unique real estate investment opportunity in the region and in Lebanon in particular, in view of the fact that it directly overlooks the beach in Greater Beirut. “Greater Beirut is not big enough for large projects and Marina City is looked at as the last of these opportunities because of its distinctive characteristics that makes it attractive to persons wishing to own luxurious residential apartments on the quay of Joseph Khoury Marina, the number one tourist destination in Beirut,” Malaekah added.||**||

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