Monday, May 5, 2008

Should we expect a Nobu-Baghdad? ...by Sybil Sage

If the U.S. Military planners get their way, which has been known to occur, there will be a Marriott Hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone, home to key Iraqi government offices and the U.S. and British embassies, as there is a five-year, $5 billion vision of a modern shopping center to rival The Grove in L.A. Can Nobu-Baghdad and Starbucks be far behind? It's reported that a deal has been completed for Marriott International Inc. to build a hotel though nothing has been said about an Army/Navy store, whose selection of khaki and camouflage weekend wear seems appropriate.

Word from Baghdad is there is no sewer system, no working power system and no road repair work, making it sound alarmingly like New York. But despite that and the rising violence, developers are optimistic that Baghdad, like the former war zones of Sarajevo and Beirut, will be reshaped, and early investments will return a handsome profit. American officials say that land which went for $60 a square meter is now being sold for up to $1,000 a square meter, all while American real estate is tanking.

Last week, a Los Angeles-based company confirmed it's creating an amusement park on the outskirts of the Green Zone in the area encompassing the Baghdad Zoo with a skateboard park, scheduled to open this summer. It's not clear if the Iraqi government wants U.S. involvement in developing this area, and there's the added glitch of sorting out the true owners of property in the Green Zone.

Look for the name, Halliburton to emerge.

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