Sounding alarm to revive downtown. Solidere to give incentives to shop owners - Lebanon

Sounding alarm
to revive downtown
Solidere to give incentives to shop owners
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An initiative has been launched today to discuss the revival of Beirut’s downtown area. This comes in the light of continuous paralysis of activity in the capital’s center due to anti-government protests and strict security measures around political dialogue sessions.

The initiative consists mainly of supporting trade activity in central Beirut. Solidere, the company in charge of developing Beirut Central District, for instance, will give incentives to shop owners to stay in the area.

“We will modify our plans to encourage footfall by giving better leasing facilities for the tenants,” said Nasser Chammaa, Chairman of Solidere, during a conference held at the premises of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon (CCIA-BML).

Solidere will work on creating more cultural events and organizing different activities in the near future as well. Chammaa said that company representatives will sit with shop owners and listen to their demands to improve these plans to the maximum.

The company’s decision came after weeks of protests by public campaigns calling for a transparent solid waste plan and the fall of the regime. The protests have clashed with security forces several times, causing collateral damages to the area’s stores and infrastructure.

The initiative calls on politicians to neutralize the downtown from all political disputes. Michel Salameh, Operations Manager at Aïshti, said: “We call on all parties to save the country from this crisis to avoid the weakness in the State’s institutions and the economy.”

The initiative also urges political authorities to relocate their activities. “It is necessary to move the authorities and the dialogue sessions from Beirut Central District (BCD) to another area like Ain El Tineh,” said Nicolas Chammas, Chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, who spoke during the conference.

Around 12 percent of all luxury stores in the Beirut Central District (BCD) have shut down during the past year, according to Chammas. He said that the number of shops that deal with VAT refund company Global Blue dropped from 1,116 in by the end of June 2014 to 986 shops for the same period of this year. “Out of the 130 shops that were closed, 79 of them are located in the BCD, 15 in Hamra, 12 in Verdun, ten in Ashrafieh, and 13 in different Beirut areas," he said.

The northeastern part of the BCD, including Weygand Street, Banks Street, Riad el Solh, and Martyrs Square is completely shut down. “We fear that this ‘desertification’ expands to other areas,” he said.

The Central Bank (BDL) has expressed its intention to take the initiative to support traders in its losses. Governor Riad Salameh said during the Lebanese Iraqi Banking Forum earlier this week that the BDL will soon issue a circular to lower the debts of private companies and alleviate their financial burdens.

“We won’t remain silent on all what’s happening,” said Mohammed Choucair, Chairman of (CCIA-BML). “We will do anything to defend Beirut’s downtown or any economic area and the economy,” he said.
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
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Date Posted: Sep 17, 2015