-The effect of bigness
BeitMisk, is the one of the most famous residential projects in Lebanon that is situated in Atshaneh, Metn, in Mount Lebanon and a 10 minutes from the center of the capital, covering around 655,000 sqm and total of USD 1,000,000,000 in total costs. BeitMisk will have be housing 1,800 units split into apartments and villas along with shops and retail units. It will also uses “green” practices throughout the project, while giving for its resident’s some of the most advanced technologies, thereby making it as a “smart” project, according to international standards.
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But the important question is why do we need such a project with big investment and does it really have a contribution to it’s the surroundings and to the country?
The BLF (Banque Libano-Francaise) states: “The project joins the more than 41 per cent of the total value of Arab property projects in Lebanon that came from UAE investments in 2008, according to the Inter-Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation annual report. BeitMisk adds to $1bn UAE investments in Lebanon. Any project that is funded from a foreign country may cause a threat to Lebanon.” (BLF,2011) Foreigners buying parcels, cities like Misk is considered that not only investing but owning owning a city. Yet, it is a weakness to our own government not helping to financing this kind of projects and block foreigners. Imagine there are hundreds of projects like Misk. They will own the country.
BeitMisk, plays also an important part in branding and advertising (hope sweet home), creates inspiration through nationwide. Georges Abou Jaoude, Renaissance Holdings, the owners of the project said: "We believe that the success of this branding initiative will contribute greatly in ongoing nationwide efforts to enhance 'Brand Lebanon' among foreign investors from the UAE and beyond," (Georges Abou Jaoude,2010) However, Beitmisk has no relation with Lebanese culture and heritage, it doesn’t define as Lebanese. And branding for what? For an apartment that you can never afford. Yet these brandings target not locals but foreigners. And it doesn’t have certain part that is designated for low incomes buyers and more than half of the populations live in poverty.
“If this is a village it should be affordable , someone tell me how much does a house there cost ?” (unknown,2012)
Abou Jaoude, president of Beitmisk said that: “I acknowledged that the rise in the prices of properties has reduced the appetite of Lebanese to buy real estate and apartments compared to previous years. The Lebanese can no longer cope with rising real estate prices. The price of land had risen alarmingly and to the extent that it has reflected on the value of apartments and for this reason the market can no longer tolerate this [reality],” he said. In his opinion, the Lebanese have begun to change old habits inherited by their parents and grandparents when it came to buying an apartment. “In the old days, many Lebanese used to buy a home in the city and rent a house in the mountains in the summer. The good thing about Beit Misk is that a family can spend the summer and winter in the region thanks to its proximity to Beirut and reasonable altitude,” he said. (Abou Jaoude, 2012) If it is not affordable, why would you build such a project? What Mr. Abou Jouade said does not answer to the question. If it is the only place for vacationing (like rents and chalets), there are other places which are cheaper and I think that most parents will not rent such compounds for their children.
UTILITY SALVATION (used also as branding)
Mr. Abou Jaoude states: “I believe that many Lebanese are still living in a state of denial. We shouldn’t forget that we had a civil war in 1975. This does not mean that there will be a repetition of this war. But nevertheless, we need to create awareness among the people to avoid such scenarios in the future. This requires the cooperation of the news media in Lebanon,” he said. “GENERATORS ARE HISTORY” triggering people’s curiosity then the other revealing headline “24 hours electricity...” In the end, Beit Misk knew that advertising is “the” tool for a successful marketing approach. (Abou Jaoude, 2012) We’re just too stupid that most of us bought it. BeitMisk is giving solutions within its own territory only. It doesn’t care for the outside and the region. It is not fixing Lebanon’s main electricity problem or offering us a gas alternative. So, these advertisements are deceitful only. And the price of electricity may remain the same. It is impossible for private generator bill to be cheaper than the electricity provided by the government. The only difference is that the electricity won’t be cut down from time to time and there will be lights on the streets at night.
Wael Hmaidan, executive director of IndyAct, a league of independent environmental, social and cultural activists discuses: “One of many projects that are disfiguring what’s left of Matn’s landscape. There was a full side of a mountain full of trees before that project invaded the area, do you really believe that they would replant every torn tree, who said that this area can handle a 800 Million $ housing compound? But the “Neo-Dai3a” term is quite fitting, this is exactly what this project does it mimics our traditional villages with a cement mammoth. But with many of Lebanon’s high mountains already spoiled by poorly planned development and half built concrete homes and apartment buildings, is the unspoiled upper Metn really a place to build a suburban neighborhood? But BeitMisk may be claimed as environmentally friendly; the chairman of the project is said that it will feature public squares, full with wide open green spaces. Hmaidan also claims that: “BeitMisk will destroy the natural habitat and the ecosystem of a big part of the mountain forest. There will be plantations rather than a forest ecosystem. You cannot compare it. A tree does more than give oxygen. It is a habitat, a house and an eco-system. (Wael Hmaidan, 2013) He says that the some authorities are against these projects, but have no will and power to block every development that threatens what is left of the Lebanese natural wealth. Unfortunately, Hmaidan says that campaigning against these kind of constructions or any single development is a lost case. What we should do is to form a plan policy in the country so such developments would not be produced if they threaten the sustainability of Lebanese natural wealth. “We can continue like this until we don’t have a single forest in Lebanon”, Hmaidan says: “we can create urban planning and a system to benefit all levels of society. The ecosystem debate seams valid, though, and one can never know how if they really did all what they claimed they had done.” Nothing is sadder than to destroy nature. If you want to build such project, you should study the environment or perhaps build it near the city that is least causing damage the environment and the ecosystem. To me, such big areas for development should be consulted by urbanists.
A Saudi politician has been freed early this month after being kidnapped from his own residential apartment which he bought in Beit Misk and held hostage for several days. (An-Nahar, 2012).An investigation was held and a phone interview was established, Ahmed al-Ajaji, the kidnapped person, said: “On March the 9th I was sleeping at my own home in the Beit Misk project and woke up later to find myself somewhere else,” he believes that he was drugged and taken a hostage.The kidnappers had demanded a 20 thousand dollars ransom in exchange for his release.Based on the kidnappers' accent; Ajaji suspected that they were from the Bekaa town of Baalbek despite their revelation that they were Syrians. Because it is a big project, and it is known that the owners of this town have high income, it will create insecurity and especially it is a big project where it does not a have a tough security system or city scale police department.
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In conclusion, Beitmisk is somehow a threat to Lebanon. Just like any other big and city scale projects, especially if they are private projects or even worst if the foreigner have also put their hands in to it. We should be very careful and study more about these kind projects (Like malls). I understand people who want to investment or buy lands and build concrete walls and sell them for profit but foreigners come and buy them. Maybe the government should take into consideration these kinds of threats. Small individuals should do small projects like constructing a single house and the government takes care of public spaces.