The New Urbanist
Beirut, Solidere, and the 21st Century City.

So, what’s better than a private development company building a lot of cool stuff? A private development company with the power of government. 

And with that I have probably gravely offended both my friends on the Left and on the Right at the same time.

But hear me out:

Solidere is the missing link in urban development. It fills a void that government cannot fill. It was founded by the then Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri, as a development company responsible for the planning and redevelopment of Beirut following their civil war. 

Solidere enjoys special powers of eminent domain as well as a limited regulatory authority codified in law, making the company a unique form of public-private partnership.

So is Solidere the perfect solution to all our urban problems? Probably not, as nothing is ever perfect. But I wouldn’t be surprised if more entities like Solidere start popping up in cities around the world, as many city and national governments struggle to cope with the demands of urban development in the 21st century. 

The New Urbanist will be posting an array of projects done by Solidere in Beirut over the coming week so that you can decide for yourself if this kind of development company is needed in some of our cities.

I’ll leave you with a hint: Paris didn’t become the city it is today because Baron Haussmann asked every Parisian in a town-hall style forum to share their thoughts and feelings on the transformation and modernization of the city. 

Just sayin’ 


Meanwhile, New York faces a capacity problem. The city is expected to add one million residents over the next few decades, and river crossings—a key barrier separating where people live from where they work—are increasingly nearing capacity. Economically, the city can’t support construction that costs more than $2 billion per mile and takes a decade to build out a mere two of them. And New Yorkers are facing a future where political inaction could prevent badly needed subway expansion projects from seeing the light of day.  
As a knee-jerk reaction to the issues, leaders have begun to think small. They propose ferries, with ridership that tops a few hundred per day, as opposed to a few hundred thousand per day for a full-length Second Avenue subway. They urge bus rapid transit as a lower-cost option, without discussing how lower costs inevitably lead to lower capacity. Only subway lines can sustain New York’s projected growth, but New York can’t sustain multi-billion-dollar subway lines. 

-NYC Can’t Afford to Build the Second Avenue Subway, and It Can’t Afford Not To
[Image: MTA]

The woman in the blue coat approached me by the United Nations building yesterday, and said: ‘There is an interesting man around the corner that you should photograph. I don’t know his name, but everyday he stands directly across from the UN, and says ‘God Bless You’ to everyone who walks past. I’ve always sort of viewed him as the conscience of the world.’'Let's go together,' I said, and she agreed to bring me to where he was standing. When we finally found the man, I asked for his photo, and he cheerfully agreed. But he pointed at a nearby wall:"Let’s take the photo under that scripture," he said.


If you ever get down on yourself, just remember that there are people out there who think brutalist architecture is a good thing. 

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