CITY SCULPTOR

Lebanon 2013 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Philippe Tabet, General Manager of Har Properties, on projects the company is working on, sustainability, and urban planning.

Philippe Tabet
BIOGRAPHY
Philippe Tabet began his studies in 1985 at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and later went on to gain his MBA in Banking Finance from Schiller University in Paris. He started his professional career in France as a banker in 1987 before moving to Delmotte-Decock as a Project Manager in 1988. In 1990, Tabet moved to Cogedim as a Project Manager and moved up the ranks leaving the company as Head of Asset Management to join Har Properties as the General Manager in 2008.

What are your expectations for Aya, due for completion in 2015, and why did you choose Mar Mikhael as a location?

When we first purchased the land in Mar Mikhael, the area was very poor; however, we believed that there was huge potential in this street because of the alignment of old houses and buildings and the atmosphere. We believed that we could sell a high-end project in this kind of area. We have very few offices and 44 apartments. We have already sold 70% of the project. We do not sell our retail spaces; we rent them. We have around 2,000 sqm of retail space that we are trying to develop into a dynamic area. Hence, we created a pedestrian “piezetta" in the center of the project, meaning people can walk around and enjoy coffee shops and restaurants. The architecture of the project is unique; it was designed by a French architect who took into consideration the urban aspect of the street. We tried to position the building in such a way to maximize views and spaces. There are two things that make this building stand out: preserving the original facade of the building currently on site and integrating it with the new building, which was really a challenge. The other challenge was how to build a tower that was not intrusive and in a way that reduced its visual impact on the street.

In what ways is Har Properties committing to sustainability?

When we started in Aya, I wanted it to be a green building. So, I contacted the LEED operator in Lebanon, and we decided to go green. There were only two or three buildings with this certificate. It is a challenge because there are many aspects that unfortunately cannot be avoided. The first being the electric generators, which are the biggest source of pollution. In order to get LEED Certification, there are a certain number of achievements that need to be reached, such as the white facade and the double-glazing, which helped us get our green building certification. However, for other developers, it can be a challenge to get this far.

What is your vision for the future of Beirut's cityscape?

The authorities have to work on the urbanization of Beirut, because there is no plan. Few developers are sensitive to the aesthetics of architecture; most of them do not care and are only concerned about profit. When your concern is profit, you do not care about the look of the city and the authorities do not control this. It really is a mess, and I hope that they work on an urban plan for Beirut to avoid more of the bad construction that you can see in the city. However, there are a few developers that do try to create pleasing projects, green buildings, and even contribute to the infrastructure in the area.

What are your expectations for Upark, and what makes this project different?

Many developers count on the diaspora, and for many years we tried to avoid the local Lebanese sector and target the diaspora; however, now we are targeting the Lebanese at home and we try to attract them here as well. That is why the size of apartments is smaller, because the purchasing power of local Lebanese is much less than the Lebanese living abroad. We try to encourage Lebanese expatriates to return and buy small apartments. This is why in one of our projects, Upark, we have started selling 76-sqm apartments, which is a studio apartment in Europe, although it is a little bigger than a studio in Paris, for example. Upark also has a 2,500-sqm garden. It is a very interesting project that we are trying to promote in a new area, which was previously an industrial zone. If you think of the evolution of London and New York, much of those cities were once industrial areas that have transformed into residential areas. We are trying to do the same for this area.