Nejmeh Square is the historical center of downtown Beirut. It is a business and commercial destination as well as the location of a number of public institutions and places of worship. Nejmeh Square is the site of the Lebanese Parliament Building and it is famous for the Abed Clock that occupies the center of the square. With a number of French Mandate buildings dating back to the 1930’s, unique arcade walkways on Maarad and Al Omari streets, the many restaurants and cafés, the area offers a unique setting that attracts strollers, families, and tourists. The entire Maarad-Nejmeh Square area is one of the rare pedestrian areas of Beirut, creating a convivial ambiance.
There are 39 buildings in the Maarad-Nejmeh Square area, 35 of which are exclusively office buildings. The area is thus a predominantely business and commercial address, much in demand by both local and international companies. The majority of the buildings are low-rise constructions of four to five floors that have been renovated during the reconstruction period. Only three new buildings were built after 2000, thus offering modern internal spaces and amenities within a traditional external architectural look. The older stock of offices means that the floor plan layout is of mostly small areas divided into individual rooms. The office supply is made up mostly of areas between 100 and 200 SQM, with very few open spaces. This in part explains that prices are slightly lower than neighboring Foch-Allenby. Rental rates vary between USD 250-275 per SQM per year. Very few units are for sale in that part of town. Only a few buildings are offered for sale in their entirety.
Not all office buildings or retail units post the same occupancy rates. The majority of office buildings that are well maintained, with good common areas, post satisfactory occupancy rates. The three buildings belonging to Solidere as well as buildings belonging to religious Waqf (institutions) also have very few vacancies. However, more than 25% of the office buildings in the area are empty, either because they are in a terrible state of repair or have been abandoned for several years, or because they are placed on the sale market. About 90% of the retail units on Maarad Street are occupied, while several side streets (Toubia Aoun, Souk Bazerkane, Maaniyin, Kaddoura) are totally neglected by shoppers and retailers alike. Some shops have stood vacant for several years, although they post relatively lower ERVs. The lack of pedestrian flux, however, deters retailers. A more attractive pricing strategy might help boost the area.
Maarad Street is one of the most popular destinations with tourists, particularly from the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf. The Maarad-Nejmeh Square landscape is dominated by the F&B sector, with 29 restaurants, cafés, and snacks, 17 of which are located on Maarad Street. The area caters mostly to a mass market clientele, offering mostly Lebanese food, nargileh cafés, and fast food outlets. It is not a destination that attracts high-end cuisine. Rental values depend on the size of the unit – the smaller areas are relatively rare and therefore quite expensive. ERVs vary between USD 1,000-1,500 per SQM per year. However, some side streets leading away from Maarad and Nejmeh Square, such as Souk Bazerkane or Toubia Aoun, receive very little traffic. Rental rates there have been dropping since 2006. There is very little – if any – demand in those streets, despite rental rates as low as USD 500 per SQM per year.
Maarad Nejmeh at a Glance
- Total number of buildings 39
- Total number of office buildings 35
- Vacant office buildings 9
- Total number of governmental buildings 3
- Hotel 1
- Office rental value (USD/SQM/Year) 250 – 275
- Retail rental value (USD/SQM/Year): Prime Location 1,000 – 1,500
- Retail rental value (USD/SQM/Year): Secondary Location 500