It is impossible to miss the three glittering towers of the Verdun Gardens compound as one drives by. The new project, at the intersection of the Qoreitem and Verdun areas of Beirut, also incorporates a collection of stores located in the green plaza beneath.
The compound is the latest development from Soligran SAL and Soligran Hotels — both fully owned subsidiaries of Bahaa Hariri’s Horizon Development, a property investment and development group.
Two of the 22-floor structures are exclusively residential, while the remaining one is the country’s first Staybridge Suites, the international long-term stay hotel franchise operated by the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). So far, the project’s residential branch is performing reasonably well, with 17 of the 44 approximately 575 square-meter apartments sold — mainly to Lebanese — at a starting price of $5,500 per square meter (sqm) at the first level and up to $6,775 per sqm, according to a source from Horizon Development. Of the 10 retail shops at the base of the residential buildings and along the main entrance of the complex, only one has been rented out — to Hallab, the Lebanese sweets chain. Rent for these outlets is $1,000 per sqm at the ground level.
The presence of Staybridge Suites Beirut, which is IHG’s sixth venture in Lebanon and the third Staybridge in the Middle East, is what marks the project apart from other residential developments in the country. “IHG saw that the concept of an extended stay upscale hotel was lacking in Beirut and wanted to bring something new to the country,” says Ihab Kanawati, general manager of Staybridge Suites Beirut. He further explains that in Lebanon extended stay outlets are usually 2 or 3-star properties and lack the facilities and comforts of fancier venues.
With the idea of a long stay in mind, Staybridge is truly designed to feel like “your home away from home” and no detail, from the aroma of warm cookies that greets you as you enter the lobby, to the corkboard with little post-its hung in each room, is spared to invoke this feeling. Each suite has a kitchenette, office space and a private balcony with a view of the city.
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“Staybridge has all the amenities found in all 5-star hotels but in a more cozy and natural manner,” says Kanawati. He gives the example of Staybridge’s breakfast serving style; rather than a typical hotel buffet, breakfast items are placed in a refrigerator in the cafe and guests can take what they want. Other touches of home include the Pantry, where guests can purchase food items to stock their own kitchen cabinets, rather than using a minibar in the room, and the laundry room, where one can wash clothes at any time of the day. The hotel also includes a fitness room and a rooftop pool with a breathtaking view of the city. Guests are invited twice a week for a socializing and networking barbeque, a way to get to know their neighbors.
According to Kanawati, Staybridge traditionally attracts businesspeople from global corporations who are relocating or are in the city for a particular project and he believes Beirut’s Staybridge will attract the same type of people. He says the group is in communication with companies that are already familiar with Staybridge Hotels. “Staybridge would be ideal for them as they do not have to waste resources allocating the right apartment for their employees,” elaborates Kanawati.
Within walking distance of the bustling Hamra district, Staybridge’s location makes it attractive to both business and leisure travelers who can enjoy the shops and cafes of Verdun.
Staybridge has 121 suites, divided into 33 studios, 77 one-bedroom rooms, and 11 two-bedroom apartments which range from $200 to $335 per night.
Only a month into operation, and in what is considered a low season for the hospitality industry in Lebanon, Staybridge has a 35 percent occupancy on most days, which Kanawati says is better than expected. “Selling rooms is not a problem for us, the only problem is the security in the country; once that is guaranteed, then we have no problems,” he says.
Though there are no further short term plans for IHG in Lebanon, Kanawati believes opening Staybridge in Beirut is a sign of the group’s belief in the country and its potential. “Opening this hotel shows that we are not going to give up on Lebanon and that Lebanon will remain standing and investments will continue,” he says.