Lebanon may be confronted with a challenging political and economic outlook, but this did not discourage two of the country’s biggest real estate developers from launching a joint venture for a business park in the outskirts of Beirut.
Dubai-based property firm Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) and contractor Societé Joseph Khoury et Fils Holding unveiled their plan on Monday for a business hub within their Waterfront City project in the northern Beirut suburb of Dbayeh.
“We believe that the wave of negativity the country is going through is not a reflection of the actual reality on the ground,” MAF’s senior project director Samer Bissat told Executive.
According to Bissat, Dbayeh has different potentials and needs than Beirut’s central district, which is currently facing a crisis in office property demand. “The situation in Dbayeh is reversed,” he says. “There is a lack of good quality office space and the feedback we had has shown us that we are putting our efforts in the right place.”
Bissat told Executive that one of the two buildings being launched at Monday’s event was already sold out, although he could not reveal to whom. In total the business park will constitute 12 buildings. He added that should the project attract the interest they expect, construction will start in around a year.
The scheme is expected to spread over an area of 30,000 square meters (sqm), 18,000 of which will be reserved for green and outdoor spaces. The total office surface is expected to reach around 60,000 sqm. The project, Bissat told an audience of business operators at the launch, will apply for international green certification with US rating system LEED.
According to Walid Raphael, general manager with Banque Libano-Française, a partner of Waterfront City, the project for a business park is coming just at the right time — despite the ongoing geopolitical and economic crisis.
“There are many signs of strong resilience,” he said. “The real estate sector especially showed signs of resilience.” Raphael said that he was convinced that although Lebanon’s property market is now a buyers’ one, the stability of prices for the past three years could be interpreted as a positive sign and the incentive program launched by the central bank to encourage real estate loans at a lower interest rate was proving helpful.
In this context, he said, the Waterfront City business park project will attract investors’ attention. “We have been witnessing a strong demand for state of the art offices,” he said.
Raphael addressed potential investors and other attendees at the launch of the project along with Malia Group’s chairman Jacques Sarraf and Fouad Zmokhol, head of the Lebanese Businessmen Association, in a panel moderated by media entrepreneur Ricardo Karam.