Hamra is the historical center of Ras Beirut – the most cosmopolitan neighborhood of the capital and a sure investment value. Hamra has been booming for more than a couple of years, and continues to be in great demand by developers – who follow the market trend. Hamra is a collection of three different geographical entities: the area around Hamra Street is the heart of the neighborhood, then the eastern and western ends. Each geographical area caters to a special niche market and offers different development potentials. These differences are reflected in the price of the BUA. While land is becoming extremely rare in the heart of Beirut, Hamra still offers some golden development opportunities.
Probably the most renowned street of Lebanon and one that attracts the heaviest footfall in Beirut, Hamra Street is the throbbing heart of the capital. It attracts a broad mix of people, from the local student community to artists, expats, western and Arab tourists, professionals across all imaginable fields, street peddlers, or simple café-sitters and people-watchers. There are only four vacant plots of land on all of Hamra Street: three of them are currently being used as parking lots, and one is simply abandoned. Owning land on Hamra Street is like owning a rare gem. Development options are therefore mostly restricted to destroying buildings dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, even if this entails all the hassle of compensating old tenants. Development options, however, are relatively limited. Developing residential projects on Hamra Street is not possible because of the noise pollution. Businesses shun Hamra Street because of its notorious congestions. Hamra Street is too far from the medical hub of Ras Beirut to allow the development of clinics. The most obvious and lucrative development options are for hospitality projects, either as hotels or furnished apartments. Offering retail on street level goes without saying, as Hamra is the number one shopping street in Lebanon. The tremendous popularity of Hamra Street is reflected in a price of land ranging between USD 2,500 and USD 2,750 per BUA (the weight of the cost of land on the total buildable and salable area allowed).
Around AUBMC and Gefinor Center
Located at the eastern end of the district of Hamra, the area surrounding AUBMC and Gefinor Center is the real commercial center of the neighborhood. Gefinor Center is one of the most important business landmarks of Beirut. The bulk of commercial activity is centered around the medical community. Two new buildings currently taking place in the area offer clinics, catering to doctors who want to open independent practices near the many hospitals: AUBMC, CMC, Najjar, Khoury, Bekhazi, and Trad further East. There are slightly more than a dozen plots (parking lots and empty plots) that could be potentially developed at this end of Hamra. However, as development is practically limited to clinics, the absorption of such a prospective huge supply could become difficult. The area’s retail potential is also limited as there is little pedestrian traffic. Plots close to AUBMC can be developed as commercial projects containing office, clinics, and retail. Plots further away from AUBMC can be developed into residential projects offering small apartments. The price of the BUA of land drops to between USD 2,000-2,500 per buildable SQM.
The Western Frontier
Between Jeanne d’Arc and Sadat streets to the South and North of Hamra Street, the western end of the neighborhood is almost strictly residential. Still, developers include retail on the ground floor to amortize the cost of land on the overall construction cost. Retail has a very limited potential, as pedestrian flux is limited to local residents. The main target market is constituted of the population connected with the nearby universities and medical centers: students, professors, doctors, or expats looking for a temporary residence. Developments are therefore restricted to residential apartments measuring between 150-200 SQM at most. Combined with the largest stock of land that can be potentially developed (either parking lots or plots containing old buildings that can be torn down), the area offers the lowest price of land in Hamra. Prices do not drop tremendously, however, because investing in Hamra (in land or in development) carries almost zero risk. The price of the BUA still stands at USD 2,000-2,250 per buildable SQM.
Price of Land in Hamra (USD/BUA*)
- Hamra Street 2,500 – 3,000
- Eastern End (around Gefinor & AUBMC) 2,000 – 2,500
- Western End (West of Jeanne d’Arc Street) 2,000 – 2,250
* Price of the buildable SQM