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US investors eye Ledra Palace

The Ledra Palace Hotel currently the home of Sector 2 of the UN Roulement Regiment

By Elias Hazou

AMERICAN investors are interested in leasing and operating the Ledra Palace hotel in the buffer zone in Nicosia, Archbishop Chrysostomos has revealed.

The Prelate told daily Phileleftheros that the Ledra Palace hotel – in which the Church has a majority stake – is one of a number of potential investments being explored by the American business people, whom he did not name.

Chrysostomos said that during the course of meetings here with the Americans last week – where the latter expressed interest in purchasing coastal land tracts owned by the Church with a view to building hotels – he floated the idea of the Ledra Palace.

The Americans subsequently visited the site, later telling the Archbishop that they had taken an interest and would look into it.

Chrysostomos stressed that the Church has no intention of selling its stake in the historic hotel which has become a Nicosia landmark.

Rather, the hotel would be leased long-term, with the investors putting up the money to renovate it. The cost of renovation was estimated at €10m to €15m, the top cleric said. Alternatively, the Church and the foreign investors could run the hotel as a joint venture.

Chrysostomos said the Church’s aim is to prevent the now-decrepit building from falling into ruin.

“We want to maintain it so that it can operate as soon as possible,” he added.

It would be better for a large foreign corporation to undertake the renovation and operation of the hotel, because if the Church of Cyprus itself were to undertake the project there is a risk the site may be seized by the Turkish military, said Chrysostomos.

Asked what would happen with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) personnel lodged at the hotel, Chrysostomos said the peacekeepers could be relocated to adjoining homesteads but would keep their guard post there.

This was a matter to be arranged by the government, he said, adding that he did not envisage any problems.

Chrysostomos also said that he would be having a follow-up meeting with the American investors. He revealed there had been interest in the hotel from other businesspeople in the past, but that it had come to nothing.

The Ledra Palace was, up until 1974, one of the largest and most glamorous hotels of the capital. It was designed by the German-Jewish architect Benjamin Günsberg and was built between 1947 to 1949 on what was then called King Edward VII Street, since 1960 Markos Drakos Avenue. It originally had 94 bedrooms and 150 beds, officially rated as deluxe.

Following the Turkish invasion it fell within the boundaries of the UN Buffer Zone and now serves as the headquarters for Sector 2 United Nations Roulement Regiment (URR) part of UNFICYP. The hotel has played host to many high-level meetings between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, as well as hundreds of structured conflict resolution workshops between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot peace builders.

Since 2004, it has been the site of a designated crossing point of the Green Line separating the Republic of Cyprus-controlled areas from the Turkish Cypriot breakaway regime.

It remains to be seen whether the Ledra Palace idea has any teeth to it, as in the recent past the Archbishop has talked up several foreign investments which never materialised.

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