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Fifteen years of a destructive civil war, a major Israeli invasion and countless rounds of violence caused extensive damage to Beirut’s Levantine character. But a post-war real estate boom has had even more devastating consequences on the city and its social fabric.
Over the past decade, construction cranes and scaffolding have become an inescapable part of Beirut’s skyline. Luxury residential complexes and office towers have mushroomed, almost wiping out the capital’s public spaces, destroying its architectural heritage and dealing a severe blow to hopes of sustainable urbanism.
The rise in construction is explained in large part by the exorbitant profits for developers, according to Jamil Oueini, real estate manager in Beirut.
“The real estate profit for developers is between 200% and 400%. So you build a big tower, you sell three or four apartments and you’ve already paid off the costs for the rest of the building,” Oueini told The Arab Weekly.
According to the Global Property Guide, prices for apartments in central Beirut were typically between $4,200 and $6,800 per square metre in 2013 – 3.5 to 5.6 times more expensive than in 2004, when they averaged $1,200 per square metre.
As a result, hundreds of old buildings have been torn down to capitalise on the land they were built on. According to Naji Raji, founder of a local non-government organisation, “Save Beirut Heritage”, the capital city counted around 2,000 old houses at the end of the civil war in 1990. Today, Raji said, only 180 to 200 remain. […]