The Beirut Municipality is planning to build an underground parking lot at the site of the Jesuit Garden in the Achrafieh neighborhood of Geitawi. On Friday, a team of surveyors showed up on the site to take soil samples, which prompted activists to organize a protest this coming Saturday against the proposed project.
Beirut.com contacted Beirut municipality member Hagop Terzian who was adamant that the Jesuit Garden would be preserved regardless of the parking lot project.
“We need to get the facts straight: the old trees [currently in the Jesuit Garden] will be preserved in a 700 meter space nearby which the municipality is planning on turning into a small garden," he said.
“People need to know that we aren't destroying the garden or killing the old trees. We promise to rebuild the garden and we’re considering [re-planting] trees [in place of the current ones] that could age without having their roots go underground for more than a meter or a meter and a half. Bonsai trees are an option for that since we can cut their roots and they can still grow normally.”
Organizers from the Association for the Protection of Lebanese Heritage (APLH) told Beirut.com that what the municipality is proposing doesn't make any sense. "We’re not stupid, and telling us that the garden will go back to the way it was is just a total lie,” Pascale Ingea, a member of APLH said.
Ingea estimated the trees in the Jesuit Garden to be over 50-years-old.
Terzian maintains the parking lot project is the result of people's demands in the neighborhood for more parking spaces. “Citizens pay us money to work on the city’s progress and it is our duty to suggest every possible solution."
"Our main objective is to preserve the garden... and I’m always willing to listen to what other people might suggest if they could help us do our duty better when it comes to serving Achrafieh and Beirut as a whole.... I don’t see anyone [in the media] talking about our plans to renovate and improve the gardens throughout Beirut, such as the Sanayeh project."
"The Fouad Boutros Highway project is another example of their 'achievements' and how can we trust them with that?" Ingea told Beirut.com. Of Saturday's planned protest, she said: “We want them to know that you can’t make decisions on your own anymore. Citizens of Achrafieh should have a say in this because, after all, it’s their garden. They should be consulted before enacting projects that affect them."
(Photo courtesy of Nadim Kamel.)