A new public space is planned at the former Mar Michael station

There may soon be a new park in Beirut. Of course, the presented plan is implemented. At a news conference on Monday, outgoing Culture Minister Wissam Mortada, outgoing Public Works and Transport Minister Ali Hamih and Ziad Nasser, chairman of the Lebanese Railway Office and Board of Public Transport (OCFTC), unveiled a new project. Convert the 10,000-square-meter site of the former Mar Michael Station into a park that includes a museum, an artist’s studio and an exhibition space. The museum should house archeological artifacts as well as objects related to Lebanon’s artistic heritage.

The park will occupy an impressive 62,000 square meters, including a depot for state buses – including French buses recently donated to Lebanon – and OCFTC offices. Preliminary plans suggest that the historic main station building itself will not be included. , But will include other historic buildings, which will be preserved.

An abandoned and rusty train at Mar Michael station. Photo by Richard Salam

Lebanon has 402 kilometers of railways and 40 abandoned stations, including a 19th-century complex in Mar Mikhail, a marshalling yard, and repair workshops. No rail service has been established in the country since 1994 and most of these sites have been abandoned. Parts of the Mar Michael’s Complex are sometimes rented out for festive occasions. It has already been transformed into a fleeting nightclub.

OCFTC owns approximately 80 million square meters of real estate in Lebanon, according to a survey by Joanna Malcolm, a city planner and member of the train / train board. The park project is funded by the Italian Embassy through UNHABITAT. A representative of the Ministry of Culture. With funds secured, the government is “preparing” to begin work, the representative added. The outgoing culture minister, Mr Mortada, said on Monday that it “appears” that all funding will come from Italy, but he was unable to confirm the exact amount at this time. He added that a meeting would be held soon to give the project a “touch of completion”, including the legal formalities required to turn part of the property into a park, the creation of a museum on site, and so on.

Recently donated buses from France, as well as other public transport buses are stored at Mar Michel station. Photo by Richard Salam

The outgoing transport minister, Mr Hamih, said for his part that after the August 4, 2020, explosion at the port of Beirut, his administration had arranged a meeting with the Ministry of Culture because of the “excellent heritage value” involved in the affected areas. Speaking to reporters, he confirmed the government’s interest in resuming rail transport in Lebanon, but made it clear that the current project would not include an overhaul of transport capacity in other parts of the site. And subsequent governments will continue to travel, “he said.

Mortada said the project would take about a year to complete. The new public space will be a place where “gamers and Beirut residents will meet”, he announced before adding: “We want the station to play a functional role in the long run in welcoming all arrivals.”

(This article was originally published in English on the L’Orient Today website, June 13, 2022)

There may soon be a new park in Beirut. Of course, the presented plan is implemented. At a press conference on Monday, the outgoing Minister of Culture Wissam Mortada, the outgoing Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamih and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Railway Office and Transport in Lebanon …

Leave a Comment