Business Times

Change in Galle Face Green tourism zone plan irks investors

By Bandula Sirimanna

A change in the plan to transform the Army headquarters area near the Galle Face Green, a prominent landmark in Colombo, to a major tourism zone has surprised major investors who have purchased blocks of lands to build two six star hotels. The allocation of a 5-acre land adjoining the Shangri-La hotel site to the Sheraton, another international chain of hotels, was a complete deviation from the original plan, informed sources said.

According to the agreement with Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Asia Ltd, the government authorities had agreed to keep the Beira Lake picturesque view for their proposed six star hotel. But now another tourist hotel is to come up in the area blocking this view front pushing Shangri-La into a difficult situation, the sources said. The green belt proposed the earlier plan has now been reduced to a great extent affecting the landscape of the Colombo Shangri-La hotel. The company purchased the 6-acre Galle Face property at a price of US$ 76 million.

The investor of the third super luxury hotel project neat Galle Face Green has not been selected as yet. However a senior Finance Ministry official said that Sheraton Hotels has expressed its interest in buying the block of land facing Beira Lake.

The government plans to raise US$350 million from the sale of land to these three parties, he revealed. These were outright sales, he said. The second investor of the hotel project China National Aero Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) was also not aware about the change in the original plan, the sources said. CATIC a leading trading corporation of China with its core business is aviation plans to enter super luxury hotel business in Sri Lanka by investing US $500 million. They have been asked to purchase the land at a price of US$125 million.

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