The owner of Archistyle & Design offers a virtual tour of the new Verdun Mall and we are excited. The 50,000m2 space has been completed with astonishing speed and incredible quality. Months ago when Mohamed Hamdoun was beginning to consult on the massive construction, the English and Arabic speaking architect mentioned it would be one of the biggest in Lebanon.
A father of two sons and one daughter, Mohamed Hamdoun cannot help feeling excited for them, imagining them enjoy their shopping spree on the six floors which he informs me will host a state of the art movie theatre with additional space for the entertainment section and 1,800m2 of green spaces.
There will be four different access points, he points out, three pedestrian entrances and nearly two thousand parking spots. There will be over two thousand new job opportunities in this mall. It is a massive project, the graduate of the American University of Lebanon and the National Protestant College admits. And I have to admit my shock and awe in how quickly it has come up.
Mohamed Hamdoun has been on this road before though. Having overseen the construction of the Ashrafieh mall, he knows just how much it takes to have this done successfully. Sitting on a 102 acre parcel of land, the mall would take international tenants, renting space for $24/m2 to $55/m2 per month. French retailer Carrefour is its anchor tenant with 10,000m2 and is joined by Bose, Hugo Boss, and Nike among others.
Foreign investment in Beirut, he says, is responsible for the massive growth of the construction sector, with real estate markets growing and land shrinking. Office space, residential areas, apartments, hotels and restaurants are quickly replacing the old buildings of Beirut, and the green is quickly being replaced with concrete.
Asked whether he has any qualms on the rapid development, he says he has none. These developments will provide jobs and spaces for economic activity in a way the old Beirut never could. And there is nothing worse, he says, than being left behind.
His company operates in the United States as well, and Mohamed Hamdoun is gladly part of the development of urban centres there as well. They consulted on the construction of the iconic Beirut buildings, three high rises in the city with views of the historic Wadi Abu Jamil to the south, the Marina to the North and the Mountains to the East. The architect describes it as the result of world class contemporary design by world class architects. It is set around direct pedestrian routes, its design connecting the city centre to the harbour. A sophisticated interior, integrating nuance with bold statements and attractive spaces is joined with breath-taking terraces, huge windows, and high ceilings. Mohamed Hamdoun seeks once again to set new ideals in urban life, design and quality.
We part with him insisting on the city of Beirut remaining a beacon of growth and stability throughout the region, despite the constant conflict in the neighbouring countries.