General Manager, FFA Real Estate
Chairman, GZA Group
Georges Abou Jaoude The Ahlam Gold and Mountain Village project is one of our largest projects to date. It is set on 1 million sqm of land that was gradually acquired over the past 10 years from around 300 different landowners. Ahlam sits at an altitude of 1,400m and is 10 minutes away from the ski resorts. At Ahlam’s most elevated point, a full village is being developed with all the amenities of a mountain village resort. This is a phased project; around 400,000 sqm is under development in phase one with its infrastructure due to be completed in 2018, and all of this phase ready toward 2020. At that point we will initiate Phase II.
Georges Zard Abou Jaoude The BeitMisk project is a dream come true; it is a unique concept in the area and perhaps even in the entire Middle East region. There might be similar developments, but our views, configuration of land, and pollution-free environment set us apart from others. Currently, we are in the fourth phase of development, and we have delivered 400 residential units so far, including apartments, townhouses, and villas. We have new phases that will be delivered by the end of 2018. I am confident that we have built one of the most beautiful villages in the world. What we are developing is an environment from scratch, where even at the architectural level each building is unique in its appearance. For our community, we offer all the facilities that they need—from 24/7 electricity and water supply to fiber-optic and high-speed communications network and round-the-clock security. The green aspect of the project is unparalleled in Lebanon; most of the energy is solar powered instead of gas. We have a water system for irrigation and sewage treatment system that is one of the best in the world. Our facilities also include year-long planting and landscaping, making sure all aspects of the environment are being respected in this development. BeitMisk was awarded the widely recognized Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology certification by combining smart urban design with an eco-conscious approach to living. At BeitMisk, we are also extremely involved in corporate social responsibility projects. We like to give back to the community with our events and get our residents in our community involved in the things we do as well. Throughout the year, we hold food and clothing drives to help local Lebanese NGOs, and at Christmas time, we host entertainment where orphanages are invited and gifts are donated at our public event called Santa’s Factory.
GAJ Despite what is happening in the region and in Lebanon, the real estate market here is sustaining itself well, considering six years of an unstable neighbor and an influx of more than 2 million refugees. However, investments occur when there is confidence, and confidence occurs when there is a vision. The inability to predict what will happen next in Lebanon, Syria, or the region, therefore, impacts our confidence levels. I do not think there will be a pick-up in the market until the problem in Syria ends. We are therefore in limbo in a way, and for this reason it would be unrealistic for me to give a positive outlook at this moment in time. However, the sector is still strong because of policies that were implemented by the central bank and by the banks that are used to risk taking and which have not provided big leverage to investors. Currently, the mood is constrained because there is a lack of liquidity in the market due to the unstable environment around us. The priorities are to sustain, keep innovating, build futures for our employees, and be able to inspire them and support them in this period of uncertainty. We have always relied on innovation to keep us ahead and in these times the drive is there more than ever to push ourselves to innovate more, create more, and build more.
GZAJ In the past, during the war, we never lost hope; we were always optimistic. We never stopped the development of our projects—continually creating new jobs for Lebanese people and helping them stay in Lebanon. We have always worked hard on our ventures. We have the most beautiful country and the most resilient people, and it is imperative that we continue to create a future for Lebanon where it can prosper and continue to rise, despite whatever hardships the country may face.
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