Construction boom more detrimental to Beirut’s aesthetic than war

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Construction boom more detrimental to Beirut’s aesthetic than war

Construction boom more detrimental to Beirut’s aesthetic than war

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. []

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