Ledra Palace UN barracks could become events venue

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The Cyprus Church is eyeing the development of the historic Ledra Palace Hotel into an events venue, as the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP) may stop using the Nicosia landmark as a barracks for its personnel.

The Church-owned Ledra Palace Hotel has been used by the United Nations since 1974 to accommodate Unficyp military personnel and constitutes the headquarters for the Mission’s Sector Two.

The news was confirmed to Phileleftheros daily by Archbishop Georgios, who revealed the Church is in talks with UNFICYP to regain custody of the building.

Archbishop Georgios said the Church has commissioned a structural study to determine whether the Ledra Palace can be used as a venue for events.

He told Phileleftheros UNFICYP does not appear keen on holding on to the property, as the building needs a serious revamp.

However, the Archbishop told Phileleftheros: “Despite the years that have passed, the building does not appear dangerous. This will be confirmed with a static adequacy study”.

He said the Church wants to ensure that future property users will be safe.

Archbishop Georgios said that if the building proves to be durable and, on the condition the United Nations do not wish to continue using it, the Church will not be restoring the property as a hotel but as an events venue.

The building was constructed in the late 1940s; wear and tear over seven decades necessitated costly maintenance to house UN peacekeepers in the buffer zone.

The government has spent millions on maintaining the building. One refurbishment cost the state €2 million.

A Strategic Review Team sent by the United Nations in 2017 to evaluate the building found that due to outdated health and safety measures, it was essential for UNFICYP military peacekeepers to vacate the hotel’s upper floors.

To ensure continuity in the day-to-day operations of Sector Two peacekeepers and their physical safety, the Mission’s senior management decided to build prefabricated accommodation for them at Wolseley Barracks, a location almost directly opposite the hotel.

Refurbishing the Ledra Palace will cost several million, as the building must also meet energy-saving criteria should it be put to commercial use.

The Ledra Palace Hotel is located in the buffer zone, which belongs to the Republic of Cyprus, and until 1974, was one of the capital’s largest and most glamorous hotels.

The hotel was designed by the German Jewish architect Benjamin Gunsberg.

It was built between 1947 and 1949 by Cyprus Hotels Limited for approximately £240,000 (Cyprus Pounds) on what was then called King Edward VII Street, renamed in 1962 to Markos Drakos Avenue.

The hotel opened on 8 October 1949 in the presence of British Governor Sir Andrew Wright and Vice Mayor of Nicosia George Poulios.

It originally had 94 bedrooms and 150 beds, officially rated as deluxe.