Designs for the $100 million Souks project were completed five years ago and work on the underground car park – for which the local Arabian Construction Company was the main contractor – was completed in 2001. However, political infighting saw certain government agencies withhold the permits necessary for work on the superstructure to begin.

With cabinet approval secured, Solidere is expecting to obtain the permits within three-four months of submitting the paperwork. The tendering process for the main packages has already been completed and the seven bids submitted are under evaluation (Lebanon, MEED Special Report, 25:7:03, pages 34-36). The construction period is 18-24 months.

The 100,000-square-metre development will include a 13,000-square-metre department store, a 7,000-square-metre supermarket, a souk with about 200 shops, a gold and jewellery market, a multi-purpose store, a leisure complex including an eight-screen cinema and an IMAX screen, restaurants and cafes, an art gallery, an archaeological museum, a children’s science museum, a centre for integral technology and an underground car park.

Sources close to the project say that France’s Galerie Lafayetteis the frontrunner for the possible department store for the project.