"The uprooted trees will be replanted at Horsh Beirut (Pine Forest) until the garden is rehabilitated. We will not cut any trees," Gaby Ferneini, chairman of the Green Space Committee at the Beirut City Council, told L'Orient-Le Jour (OLJ). "The municipality will ensure the smooth running of the project. We are ready to take the necessary measures in the event of any failure."
The Hassan Khaled garden, in Beirut, started to be demolished. Photo Raafat Majzoub
Ferneini emphasized that the trees that have been removed will be replanted again in the Hassan Khaled garden when it is restored. "If some trees cannot be replanted in the new garden they will stay in the Horsh (Pinewood forest)," he said.
The situation is similar to the one that played out around the Jesuit Garden in Geitaoui in 2013 and 2017. The Beirut municipality twice attempted to build a parking under the garden, but each time faced opposition from civil society and local residents. The project ended up being cancelled.
The construction of the Tallet el-Khayat parking garage, whith a capacity of 2,000 cars, is expected to take up to 24 months. It is being carried out by the Beirut Municipality in cooperation with the Council for Development and Reconstruction, and the new garden was designed by urban architect Vladimir Djurovic.
"Nothing will be replanted"
Mohammad Ayoub, president of the NGO Nahnoo, which campaigns for good governance and the preservation of public spaces, opposes fiercely the project. "This is a historic garden the purpose of which will be changed by adding a parking garage. The ageless trees found there cannot be moved or replanted in the new garden, not to mention the air and noise pollution once the parking is set up," Ayoub said.
The Beirut Municipality also plans to build another car park under the Ramlet el-Baida public garden, according to Ayoub. "When we create more car parking we are encouraging people to buy cars instead of working on developing a public transport system. This is not the right way to solve the problem. This is only a temporary solution that should be supplemented with a long term plan," he said.
The new plan for the hassan khaled garden, in Beirut.
Neighborhood residents launched a petition asking for the demolition and parking project to be stopped. In addition, a large number of concerned Lebanese citizens posted pictures of the garden being destroyed online and called for the project to be stopped.
"Nothing can be replanted above the car park. Trees need an underground space to flourish, which is not included in the site plans. Many trees die once they are torn off, especially the ones that are not native to the area. Only olive trees are resistant. It will be difficult to put the uprooted trees back where they used to be. They are way too fragile,” said Abdul Halim Jabr, an architect, urban planner and university lecturer. “At best they may be able to develop a floral park, but the garden as it is now will disappear. I'm fearful of the idea that they will even possibly build a commercial center at the site of the garden.”
(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 17th of August)
The residents of Beirut's Tallet el-Khayat district were shocked last week when they discovered that the municipality has begun demolishing the Hassan Khaled public garden and plans to replace it with an underground parking garage. The municipality promised to restore the garden once the parking garage was finished, but residents are worried and fear losing what is a rare oasis of greenery in...