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Jounieh century-old house owners worry about nearby building site

The Adaimeh family noticed cracks in the building. The site promoter, however, claimed to have complied with all standards and denied causing any damage to the structure.

Jounieh century-old house owners worry about nearby building site

The Adaimeh house, near the port of Jounieh, built between 1900 and 1910. (Credit: Suzanne Baaklini)

The Adaimeh family’s emblematic white stone mansion stands in the port area of old Jounieh.

Since its construction between 1900 and 1910, the mansion has proudly occupied its spot on the roundabout of Kesrouan town’s maritime corniche. It housed a paper mill and the owners’ apartments in a newer section built in the 1960s for many years.

In recent months, the owners have voiced their concerns about a building project on an adjacent plot of land, which they believe endangers the old house. Like all houses of its era, the mansion has no foundations. They even staged a sit-in in early May to protest against the construction.

Widening cracks

“We’re seeing cracks that weren’t there before, and we’ve placed microscopic strips that have come loose, proving that the cracks have widened,” Victor Adaimeh told L’Orient-Le Jour. According to him, using heavy equipment caused tremors harmful to such an old building.

The nearby construction site, set to launch in mid-November 2023, is a shopping center (offices and shops) expected to rise five stories. More importantly, it will have three basement car parks for around 77 cars (12.5 meters deep), hence the excavation work, one of the project’s promoters Cesar Iskandar told L’Orient-Le Jour.

The site is at sea level, so the work involved molded walls, a technique often employed for permanent retaining structures, deep foundations or deep waterproofing screens.

Once this stage is completed, the excavations will have to be carried out, along with the work required to drain the cavity, which is essential in proximity to the sea.

Adaimeh is particularly concerned about this phase of the work, “because the subsoils of the two plots of land function like communicating vessels.”

The owners fear that the house will eventually collapse. They have complained to the interim relief judge in Kesrouan against the methods used by the developers, and an investigation is underway.

Iskandar dismissed the criticisms leveled at the project.

“Our papers are in order, we respect all the constraints of a site close to a heritage house, and the methods we use are those of companies recognized for their professionalism and have been applied everywhere, particularly in Beirut, near old buildings,” he said.

The developer asserted that it was inevitable to use molded walls to consolidate the building’s foundations and that this part of the work was practically complete.

According to him, this work protects the house rather than endangers it, even with the land being drained.

A view of the construction site near the old house. (Credit: Suzanne Baaklini)

Iskandar cited a report by an interim injunction court-appointed expert claiming that it is impossible to determine if the construction work caused the cracks or if they were preexisting.

“If no pre-construction survey was carried out as a comparison, it is the developer’s fault, who should have taken responsibility,” Adaimeh retorted.

What does the Culture Ministry have to say?

As the Adaimeh house is part of Jounieh’s heritage, the Culture Ministry sent Wassim Naghi, an architect specializing in restoration and a member of the Ministry’s heritage buildings committee, to supervise the work in progress.

Contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour, the expert said that “for the moment, the cracks observed in the old mansion are not worrying, but it is imperative to continue examining its condition as long as work continues nearby.”

He explained that he had no data enabling him to compare the house’s conditions before and after the start of the works, acknowledging that he had been dispatched to the site rather late when the consolidation work on the site was almost complete.

One of the cracks in the walls of the house to which the owners have applied slats. (Rights reserved)

“We asked the developer to make certain observations,” Naghi said. “He said he had carried out two of them, but not the third, because he couldn’t find the equipment to do so, particularly a seismograph.”

Naghi believes that once the structural consolidation work has been completed, much of the risk to the house next door will have been eliminated, but not all of it.

“We need to continue monitoring until the end,” he said.

To Juan Hobeiche, President of the Municipality of Jounieh, who co-signs the building permits with the Directorate General of Urban Planning (DGU), “the controversy is greatly exaggerated and the work on the site is in order.”

As for the owners of the old house, they are continuing their campaign to ensure that the heritage home emerges unscathed from the adjacent building site. The complaint before the interim relief judge is ongoing, and “a report is expected this week,” according to Adaimeh.

This article was originally published in L'Orient-Le Jour and translated by Sahar Ghoussoub.

The Adaimeh family’s emblematic white stone mansion stands in the port area of old Jounieh.Since its construction between 1900 and 1910, the mansion has proudly occupied its spot on the roundabout of Kesrouan town’s maritime corniche. It housed a paper mill and the owners’ apartments in a newer section built in the 1960s for many years.In recent months, the owners have voiced their concerns...