Architects await Marina City design decision

20 August 2004
An architectural consultant is due to be appointed in late August for the contract to design a prestigious $230 million seafront development in north Beirut. Some of the biggest names in world architecture, including HOK, Skidmore Owings & Merrilland Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, all of the US, and the local Pierre el-Khoury Architects, have submitted designs for the Marina City Liban development planned by the Malaysia-registered Rusd Investment Bank (RIB).

The 81,000-square-metre development will be built around the 700-berth Joseph Khoury marina in the Dbayyeh district on an 800,000-square-metre plot of reclaimed land. The development will initially comprise four 15-storey residential towers, which could increase to nine towers, a 75,000-square-metre shopping mall over three floors and a one-kilometre seafront with restaurants and retail outlets.

Although a construction permit has still to be obtained, sources at RIB say it hopes to begin construction work in January. The project will take about three years to complete. A tender for the main construction package is expected to follow the selection of an architect. Saudi Arabian architect Nouaf Attar & Ghassan Felembanprepared preliminary designs for the development and will advise on the architectural competition. The feasibility study was carried out by the local Paragon Business Improvement. Legal advisers are the local Mohammed Alem Associatesand Malaysia's Cheang & Ariff.

The project is being managed by Malaysia-registered project company Marina City International (MCI), which was formed by RIB and holds the titles to the land. Strategic investors will provide 40 per cent of the company's $190 million working capital. Of the 40 per cent, 25 per cent is being taken by local businessman Joseph Khoury. RIB is negotiating the remaining 15 per cent with two regional investors.

MCI will raise the remaining 60 per cent through the private placement of about 1.17 million shares priced at $100 each. Lebanese Canadian Bankis providing sub-placement services.

Jeddah-based RIB was registered with Malaysia's Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority (LOFSA) in December 2002 as an offshore sharia-compliant investment bank with capital of $100 million. The bank was registered by Saudi Arabian banker Saleh Malaikah, who was formerly chief executive officer of Jeddah-based Al-Tawfeek Company for Investment Funds. RIB's aim is to tap into the growing market for Islamic banking services by developing sharia-compliant financial products.

The bank began trading in August 2003. As well as the Marina City development, it has developed investment funds for several real estate projects, including the $80 million Medina al-Muawwara development in Medina and the $160 million Durrat al-Arous tourist development on the Red Sea near Jeddah. Sources at RIB say it is also finalising a number of equity funds, including one in US technology companies and a Malaysian fund.

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