Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli announced Monday that the 70-year-old Mogamma Al-Tahrir, in iconic Tahrir Square, will be redeveloped as part of the government’s long-term plan to develop downtown Cairo. The aim, he said, is to double financial revenues from the area which is rich in historic buildings.
Madbouli’s statement followed the signing of a deal worth more than LE3.5 billion ($200 million) with a US-led consortium to upgrade and rehabilitate the Mogamma, an iconic building currently owned by the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE). The consortium includes Global Ventures, Oxford Capital Group, and UAE-based Al-Otaiba Investment.
The Tahrir complex was designed by Mohamed Kamal Ismail in 1951 as a centre for government offices. Construction of the 14-storey building, which includes 1,356 rooms, was completed in 1952. Until recently the building had served as a workplace for 9,000 government employees.
“We are on the verge of a new age in which downtown Cairo’s historical assets are being turned into modern commercial, tourist and educational centres,” said Madbouli.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said said the deal reflected SFE’s strategy to rehabilitate historic buildings in a way that generates significant financial returns. The consortium’s three companies — Oxford Capital Group, Global Ventures and Al-Otaiba Investments — were selected because of their track record in renovating historic buildings in the US and Europe.
“This consortium has transformed many buildings in Chicago into modern attractive commercial centres and apartment hotels,” said Al-Said.
The plan is to convert the Mogamma into a multi-use complex which will include hotels, and commercial, retail, administrative, and cultural spaces. According to Al-Said, a two-year timetable has been set for the work.
The nearby headquarters of the now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) which overlooks the Nile is also slated for redevelopment, details of which Al-Said says will be “available within weeks”. Plans are also afoot to turn another large one-time ministerial building into a French university.
Ayman Suleiman, SFE’s CEO, said the Mogamma deal reflects how the SFE has established itself as an important tool in the government’s creation of an attractive investment climate capable of pushing forward Egypt’s 2030 Vßision of sustainable development. The complex, once a symbol of state bureaucracy, is now set to emerge as “a modern and attractive commercial and tourist hub”.
Ownership of the Mogamma, said Suleiman, was transferred to the SFE by presidential decree in September 2020 along with a number of other public buildings. They include the old administrative headquarters of the Interior Ministry, the headquarters of the former NDP building which was partially damaged during the 25 January Revolution in 2011, and four other buildings located in the governorates of Cairo and Gharbiya. The SFEis seeking partnerships with international developers and investors to finance their redevelopment.
John W Rutledge, founder and CEO of Oxford Capital Group, said “we are delighted to have been chosen to implement this important project.” He added that Oxford capital has undertaken similar projects in downtown Chicago, New York, and Boston, including rehabilitating “the London House building, located in downtown Chicago, which though architecturally beautiful, was dilapidated and falling apart”.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.