The area of Karantina may no longer be the official quarantine of the Port of Beirut, but it is still stigmatized by its former reputation. Over the past few decades, several new addenda to the area have further deteriorated its image. Karantina is still closely associated with the refugee camp and “Arab el Maslakh” slums. It is also home to a number of polluting industries – the slaughterhouse, the Sukleen main dumpsite, and recycling plant. Karantina has an army barracks, a fire department, and several industrial sites – mainly large steel warehouses. The area, however, has several advantages playing in its favor. It is one of the largest potential land banks in Beirut. It is also a flat strip of land, very easy to re-allot and develop, and centrally located, immediately South of the main basin of the Port of Beirut, with very easy access from one of Beirut’s main traffic arteries. For all these reasons, Karantina is currently the preferred playground of heavyweight real estate investors, who juggle property portfolios with purely speculative motives. The price of buildable BUA currently varies between USD 500-1,400, depending on plots’ location.
Caught between Beirut River and the Port of Beirut, this northeastern tip of Karantina does not have a particularly good image and risks to remain long on the margins of development. The area has a general degraded and dirty image, with no particular charm. The majority of the steel storing sites are located in this area of Karantina. Loaded six-wheel trucks often clog the narrow streets. This negative image and the presence of the army camps limit land transactions in that part of Karantina. The few land sales that do take place are purely speculative, by investors betting on the potential that the area could offer in the future. Before the northeastern tip of Karantina catches on with the development market, new alignment plans must first be put in place – new roads and re-allotments, which might then change the image of the area and attract developers into a cleaner environment.
Along Charles Helou Avenue
Lined by industrial sites (Sehnaoui Group, Omar Fahl warehouses, etc.) and the fire department, most of Karantina’s façade on Charles Helou Avenue is not currently exploited optimally. However, the very heavy traffic flow on the main artery leading into Beirut from the North and eastern suburbs makes this strip of Karantina ideal for commercial developments. The excellent visibility on street level and the very easy access are highly attractive to potential retailers. Karantina’s southern façade boasts several other advantages. It is at the gateway to Beirut, within a five-minute drive from Beirut Central District. It also sits on a wide highway that offers unobstructed clearances towards Mar Mikhael. With one project already taking place after the fire department, some activity has started to take place in the commercial market. The future is obviously bright for this part of Karantina, although it might take a few more years before developers and investors make their appearance.
Western and Central Areas
The central neighborhood of Karantina is situated around a pleasant public garden and a well-planned network of picturesque, inner roads. The western end of Karantina is located near the main entrance to the Port of Beirut. Thus, both these areas have tremendous potential for multiple usage developments. The central and western parts of Karantina still have a number of undeveloped, empty land, which could be ideal for future construction sites. One large transaction has taken place in the neighborhood in 2013, which goes to prove that the market is starting to be active, albeit very timidly. It would be enough to launch a couple of pioneering projects to draw the attention of developers towards Karantina. Even though developers are awaiting the opportunity to revamp the image of Karantina by introducing new projects, they still face a sizeable challenge: convincing Lebanese to live and work in Karantina will be a long-term game of persuasion.
The price of land in Karantina is relatively high because investors are betting on the area’s future potential rather than its current reality. Prices vary depending on the area within Karantina and the exact location of the plot. The northeastern neighborhood of Karantina is the least attractive and still the most affordable. The price of the buildable square meter (BUA) should vary between USD 500-800 per BUA. Prices are higher in the western and central parts of the neighborhood, particularly around the public garden, where they vary between USD 800-1,200 per BUA. Unsurprisingly, the highest prices are for plots on Charles Helou Avenue, where they range between USD 1,200-1,400 per BUA.
Price of Land in Karantina (USD/BUA)*
- Northeastern area 500 – 800
- Western & central areas 800 – 1,200
- Southern area (Charles Helou Avenue) 1,200 – 1,400
* As per RAMCO’s estimate