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Arts Centre Scrapped, Maribor to Get New University

Maribor, 06 January (STA) - Maribor was expected to get a huge arts centre as part of its 2012 role of European Capital of Culture. That never came to pass, but now the construction site on the bank of the Drava was sold to a Kuwaiti investor, who plans to build an international university there.

The site has been sold to Kuwaiti investor Hilal Arnaout for EUR 610,000. Construction is to begin this year and the project is slated for completion in 2016, Maribor Mayor Andrej Fištravec and the Kuwaiti investor told reporters in Maribor on Monday.

The price is well below the EUR 2.1m that the city-owned company ZIM paid for the plot in 2011, but Fištravec said the sale was an attempt to "save what can be saved".

The institution will be a private university franchise. Arnaout, who addressed reporters via videolink, rejected speculations that it would be some kind of Muslim centre. It will have "nothing to do with religion," he said.

The deal is an unlikely outcome for a site that was supposed to be the centrepiece of Maribor's stint as European Capital of Culture in 2012, a project that looked doomed from the beginning.

The cornerstone ceremony for the arts centre was held in October 2011, less than two months before the European Capital of Culture events kicked off, and was supposed to be completed in 2012.

But the money never materialised and all that was left of the project was a huge pit.

The local authorities tried to salvage the project by adding an arts gallery that the state was willing to co-fund to the tune of EUR 10m, but the city failed to supply its share of the funding and the state subsidy was allocated to the Park of Military History in Pivka.

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