A photo of the historic Art Deco building which is being demolished in the Gemmayzeh neighborhood of Beirut. (The Daily Star/Venetia Rainey)
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Gemmayzeh residents woke up Friday to the sound of a historic Art Deco building being pulled down, prompting complaints from local businesses and a snap campaign to try and stay the demolition process.The pinkish corner building, which has been empty for several years, was built during the French Mandate period, and like many constructions along picturesque Gouraud Street, it boasts a number of distinctive features, including stylized wrought iron balcony railings and bay windows. The site is on the list of old buildings in Beirut, according to Atallah, who possesses maps of the city's protected sites, but falls under category E: worthless.To all intents and purposes, the building is likely a goner, according to municipality and ministry officials, especially if it is not listed as having historical or architectural value.For activists campaigning to preserve architectural heritage in a city with a predilection for lucrative real estate deals, however, the ruling points to a flawed heritage preservation system that protects individual buildings, but not the character of areas.
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