firsts: Hariri in the New York Times
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 17, 2009
I find firsts interesting. When did someone we now consider famous first attract the notice of major media outlets? How was he or she portrayed, and how has his or her image evolved since?
Some time ago, my interest in firsts intersected with my interest in Rafiq Hariri, and I began poking around a few news outlets, starting with the New York Times.
I bet you won’t be surprised to learn that Hariri’s name first appears in the Times in 1982 – but I also bet that you will never guess why. Will it help if I tell you that he appears in a section titled “Middle Western Journal”?
Yep – that’s “Western”, not “Eastern”. Hariri appears in an August 25, 1982 story about a stalled dam project in Missouri. The dam project put pressure in turn on the economy of nearby St. Louis, which had been anticipating good things:
It was to have been a boon to the St. Louis area: a large, $200 million complex with a 400-room hotel, three high-rise office buildings, a shopping mall and condominium apartments, all to be built on choice land in Clayton, Mo., just west of St. Louis.
Instead, the complex was described as a “six-block-long crater”. And guess who was behind the project?
It all began with considerable fanfare a few years ago when Rafik B. Al Hariri, a Saudi developer, put up money to get the project going. There was a flurry of activity: Architectural plans were drawn, Western International Hotels became involved and work crews began gouging the earth to prepare for a major parking lot that was to be the project’s first stage.
But Mr. Hariri encountered snags, according to Gyo Obata, a partner in the architectural firm that designed the project. ”It was one of those absentee ownership deals that was made worse by problems with getting financing as interest rates went up,” Mr. Obata said. ”He kept putting up more money for the project and probably spent $30 million. Finally he said he could go no farther and the project stopped.”
The article noted that Hariri was “said to be looking for another developer”, but that few might be interested given the raised interest rates and lack of interest in the complex’s office space.
I’m amused but happy that Hariri’s first appearance in the Times has to do with the Midwest, rather than the Mideast. And I’m delighted to have a new spin to put on the old phrase: “Meet me in St. Louis”!