From derelict no man’s land to the up and coming high-tech hub of Beirut and – its creators hope – of the region, Bachoura has made a formidable transformation! A public-private partnership between a development company (ZRE), an incubator (Berytech), and the Ministry of Telecommunications is behind this achievement. Each member of the trio has pitched in with its special expertise – ZRE developing the concept and overseeing its construction, Berytech attracting IT startups, and the Ministry providing broadband internet and telephone infrastructure at preferential rates. Since its launching in September 2012 with a nine-floor building, Beirut Digital District (BDD) currently has renovated three buildings and two more should be upcoming in 2014 and 2015, which offer approximately 7,500 SQM of office space and about 1,500 SQM of retail space. An additional 6,000 SQM are yet to come by 2017.
Projecting the Future
Like the industry it houses, BDD is a forward-looking project. It facilitates the development and growth of the IT industry by offering it a cohesive, well planned environment that promotes networking among different players in the industry. There are five development phases for BDD planned until 2023. The completed project is envisioned to include office and retail space, as well as a hospitality component to accommodate short-term visitors hosted by the companies located on the site.
BDD is an innovative development venture that will modify the urban image of the area. Turning around Bachoura, which had slept on the margins of development ever since the end of the Civil War, bordered by disreputable Khandak el Ghamik and noisy Ring Road, was indeed a gamble. The concept rests on a fool-proof offer: good quality product at very competitive prices in a central location. BDD offers impeccable, modular, office space, high-speed fiber-optics internet, shared facilities (meeting rooms, lounge areas, cafeteria, etc.), conferencing facilities, excellent amenities, and plenty of parking spaces. Office spaces are flexible and can range from 50 to 1,500 SQM, depending on specific tenant needs. Located just across the street from Beirut Central District (BCD), Bachoura is a central location that is very easy to access from different parts of the capital thanks to a surrounding network of highways. This specialized business hub offers office spaces interspersed with public passages, gardens, and green spaces. The development has managed to attract a number of IT and media companies from across the street in the prime office hub of BCD. The developer was thus spurred to acquire a mosaic of about two dozen plots of land, sprawling across three blocks between Bechara el Khoury Avenue and St. Georges Church.
BDD caters to a very specific niche clientele. It was planned as a regional IT hub, offering state-of-the-arts infrastructure and a support network specifically for the sector. The project has thus attracted IT companies and agencies active in related fields, such as advertising, media, telecom, etc. The BDD hub has currently attracted about 40 tenants, of which 29 are startups. BDD has also managed to attract some large, international brand names, such as international giants Huawei and Touch, as well as renowned local media agency, Cleartag. Within less than two years, BDD has managed to create an active hub that employs about 750 people.
BDD combines good quality products with attractive prices. Probably the single most important element that secured the project’s success has been its pricing strategy. At its launching, office spaces were being offered at around USD 200 per SQM per year. Today, the BDD official website posts asking rental values of USD 215 per SQM per year. At these rates, BDD is highly competitive vis-à-vis neighboring BCD, where prices of the old renovated stock starts at no less than USD 250 per SQM per year. Furthermore, rental values do not increase by floor levels, so that the upper floors are not penalized. Only one unit is offered for sale at an asking sales price of USD 3,700 per SQM. This is about 60% of the average sales price of USD 6,500 per SQM posted in BCD. BDD has another advantage over BCD: it does not get cut off to traffic every time there is a demonstration or parliamentary meeting and does not have the same stringent security constraints.
Beirut Digital District
- Current office space 7,500 SQM
- Current retail space 1,500 SQM
- Upcoming office space 6,000 SQM
- Number of gardens or green areas 6