Wa­ter­front CITY

Ekaruna - - Interview Relay -

Ekaruna What is your role at Wa­ter­front City? Could you talk me through the typ­i­cal process be­hind your work on this pro­ject? Samer Bsat In my cur­rent role, I am Se­nior De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor for Wa­ter­front City. This en­tails man­ag­ing the Wa­ter­front City port­fo­lio and teams, from prod­uct de­vel­op­ment to sales and mar­ket­ing. In ad­di­tion to that, I am the of­fi­cial spokesper­son for the pro­ject and a mem­ber of the Wa­ter­front City Cares Jury, the projects’ cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ini­tia­tive.

Ekaruna What are the most unique fea­tures of Wa­ter­front City? Samer Bsat Wa­ter­front City is a unique con­cept, of­fer­ing a dis­tinc­tive lifestyle in an ex­quis­ite lo­ca­tion, the first of its kind in Le­banon.

A com­mu­nity in Le­banon on Dbayeh’s sea­side, Wa­ter­front City will bring peo­ple to­gether in a sin­gle liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment de­signed for the fu­ture needs of both res­i­dents and visi­tors.

The pro­ject seeks to con­nect peo­ple with their sur­round­ings to cre­ate last­ing bonds that pro­mote com­mu­nity liv­ing, of­fer­ing mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits in line with the needs and in­ter­ests of the peo­ple who live there.

EKARUNA CATCHES UP WITH WA­TER­FRONT CITY’S SE­NIOR DE­VEL­OP­MENT DI­REC­TOR SAMER BSAT, FOR AN EX­CLU­SIVE ON THE PRO­JECT AND HIS OUT­LOOK ON THE LE­BANESE REAL ES­TATE MAR­KET.

Wa­ter­front City pro­vides many of­fer­ings in one lo­ca­tion: mod­ern con­tem­po­rary liv­ing with more than 2000 apart­ments that caters to ev­ery cus­tomer needs and as­pi­ra­tions, the bustling busi­ness hub with a state-of-the-art, first of its kind Busi­ness Park, at­trac­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for shop­ping, leisure and fun namely through ho­tels, health clubs, parks and many other fa­cil­i­ties. Ul­ti­mately, by build­ing Wa­ter­front City, we aim to re­in­force Le­banon as a cre­ative and eco­nomic hub within the re­gion and cre­ate a com­mu­nity that peo­ple would be proud to call their home. Ekaruna Can you talk me through the phases of the pro­ject? What has been com­pleted so far? Samer Bsat Not­ing the scale of the pro­ject, we de­cided to launch it in phases to stay in line with the re­cep­tiv­ity and de­mand of the mar­ket. The pro­ject has al­ready be­gun to take shape and you will wit­ness the var­i­ous phases un­fold­ing in the up­com­ing years. With the de­liv­ery date ap­proach­ing, there is a lengthy team work­ing around the clock to en­sure that con­struc­tion time­lines are met while ad­her­ing to top stan­dards.

De­spite the dif­fi­cult times the coun­try may be fac­ing, we aim to show our ded­i­ca­tion to build­ing the city and bring­ing it to life be­cause we be­lieve in Le­banon and its re­silience.

Ekaruna Do you en­vis­age more projects of the like to take form in Le­banon in the next few years? Samer Bsat In re­cent years we have wit­nessed a trend for projects of­fer­ing more than a sim­ple liv­ing space, be it en­ter­tain­ment and shop­ping of­fer­ings, green ar­eas and so on.

For the fu­ture, I do be­lieve that de­vel­op­ers will aim to pro­vide their res­i­dents with as much fa­cil­i­ties and com­fort as they can be­cause that is what clients are de­mand­ing to­day.

Ekaruna Re­cently, there has been a large de­mand for en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and so­cially sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ments and projects. How is Wa­ter­front City cater­ing to those con­cerns? Samer Bsat Wa­ter­front City is planned and built to pro­mote sus­tain­able liv­ing for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, be it through adopt­ing sus­tain­able laws, im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able pro­cesses or in­tro­duc­ing sus­tain­able ameni­ties, all aimed at build­ing a bet­ter to­mor­row.

The pro­ject strives to foster sus­tain­able com­mu­nity liv­ing where res­i­dents, their visi­tors and their sur­round­ings come to­gether in one place with the ob­jec­tive of cre­at­ing har­mo­nious, up­lift­ing and safe neigh­bor­hoods.

In terms of sus­tain­abil­ity, the ef­forts can be bro­ken down into three main pil­lars:

- In re­gards to pi­o­neer­ing stan­dards, En­vi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity is surely at the core of Wa­ter­front City. The residential build­ings are based on BREAM stan­dards, as for the Master plan, Busi­ness Park and shop­ping mall; they are be­ing built ac­cord­ing to the LEED ND and the LEED sil­ver re­spec­tively. - As for pros­per­ous com­mu­ni­ties, Wa­ter­front City aims at pos­i­tively in­flu­enc­ing the com­mu­nity by of­fer­ing in­ter­na­tional train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to its em­ploy­ees as for them to be bet­ter equipped to ne­go­ti­ate with sup­pli­ers in or­der to adopt en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and green cri­te­ria in their fi­nal de­liv­er­ies, as well as chan­nel their learn­ing to their teams. - In re­gards to high per­for­mance as­sets, us­ing green meth­ods in con­struc­tion is key, al­low­ing sav­ing on energy and wa­ter, leav­ing a green sus­tain­able legacy to our com­mu­nity. Be­yond that, a re­cy­cling sys­tem will be put in place to fur­ther make Wa­ter­front City a green sus­tain­able liv­ing com­mu­nity, as well as help ed­u­cat­ing on pre­serv­ing this com­mu­nity for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Be­yond that, Wa­ter­front City has taken their com­mit­ment one step fur­ther and launched “Wa­ter­front City Cares” - the Cor­po­rate So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity ini­tia­tive of the pro­ject. The Ini­tia­tive stip­u­lates that with each of the residential units sold, 1,000 USD will be pooled into a fund whereby grants will be awarded to Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) who present pro­pos­als that fall un­der five main pil­lars: en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity, women em­pow­er­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, healthy heart, health and safety and road safety.

To date, 10 projects across the var­i­ous pil­lars have re­ceived grants and ini­ti­ated their pro­ject with the sup­port and col­lab­o­ra­tion of Wa­ter­front City Cares.

Ekaruna What do prospec­tive buy­ers need to know when pur­chas­ing this type of prop­erty? Samer Bsat Gen­er­ally speak­ing, buy­ers need to know the lo­ca­tion of the apart­ment, the size and re­spec­tive cost as well as the ad­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties and ben­e­fits.

In terms of Wa­ter­front City, what we aim to com­mu­ni­cate be­yond that is that a home is more than just a res­i­dence; it is a unique liv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. What we are of­fer­ings is one city with an end­less list of choices; 250,000 square me­ters in­clud­ing res­i­dences, of­fices, ho­tels as well as en­ter­tain­ment and public ar­eas. Ekaruna What is your over­all ap­proach to the real es­tate mar­ket to­day? Samer Bsat In to­day’s mar­ket, peo­ple have be­come more aware of what they are pur­chas­ing. They want to make sure that all their de­mands and needs are catered to for the price that they are pay­ing. Hav­ing said that, our ap­proach is to al­ways be aware of the de­mands of the mar­ket and en­sure what we are of­fer­ings fits that need. For ex­am­ple, as per the re­cent trend, peo­ple were

in­ter­ested in smaller size apart­ments. Ac­cord­ingly, we ad­hered to the de­mands launch­ing new smaller and more af­ford­able units, and had an im­pres­sive amount of sales in a sin­gle month. Wa­ter­front City of­fers a sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment to the Le­banese econ­omy in terms of both USD spent and job cre­ation. Hav­ing said that, we be­lieve that pos­i­tiv­ity is con­ta­gious, and with our belief in a brighter fu­ture we aim to be just the start of an op­ti­mistic change.

The real es­tate sec­tor has proven to be the most re­silient even through the times of tur­moil the coun­try was fac­ing. With a pos­i­tive out­look for­ward the sec­tor will re­main strong and will con­tinue to be the main driver of the Le­banese econ­omy. Ekaruna What are the ad­van­tages to own­ing this type of prop­erty? Are there any dis­ad­van­tages? Samer Bsat A home at Wa­ter­front City is more than just a res­i­dence. Our com­mu­nity will of­fer mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits, in line with the needs and in­ter­ests of the peo­ple who live there. Com­mu­nity hubs are easily ac­ces­si­ble and of­fer a mix of shop­ping fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices that cater to the needs of res­i­dents and visi­tors. Cam­pus-de­signed busi­ness parks in­crease the di­ver­sity and at­trac­tive­ness, as well as Prom­e­nades and town squares cre­at­ing spa­ces for peo­ple to con­nect, meet and es­tab­lish a sense of be­long­ing. Ad­di­tion­ally, Wa­ter­front City will pro­vide easily ac­ces­si­ble well-de­signed ar­eas to stim­u­late com­mu­nity in­te­gra­tion and en­cour­age so­cial events and in­ter­ac­tion, pro­mot­ing a neigh­bourly spirit.

Ekaruna What is the na­ture (i.e.: labour avail­abil­ity, bu­reau­cratic gov­ern­ment pol­icy…) of the con­straints that wa­ter­front City is fac­ing? Samer Bsat Our con­trac­tors have re­layed that as a re­sult of the on­go­ing cri­sis re­lated the re­gional tur­moil, labour and crafts­man­ship avail­abil­ity that have all been a con­straint to deal with. One could con­clude that Le­banon’s re­liance on Syr­ian labour in con­struc­tion has been com­ing un­der test since the ad­vent of tur­moil next door, and more se­ri­ously in re­cent months. More­over, the bu­reau­cracy in per­mit­ting is still a fac­tor that de­vel­op­ers suf­fer from, to­day more than ever.

Ekaruna In view of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Le­banon and the re­gion, has there been any change in the time­frame to sell or lease the en­tirety of the pro­ject? Samer Bsat As pre­vi­ously noted, we are launch­ing the pro­ject in phases to stay in line with the ab­sorp­tion of the mar­ket. To date, we have been mov­ing ac­cord­ing to the master plan and are pleased to have suc­cess­fully launched three phases. Surely, along the way changes have been made to ac­com­mo­date the needs and de­mands of the mar­ket, such as the smaller apart­ments that we dis­cussed ear­lier. Mov­ing for­ward we will con­tinue to lis­ten to the mar­ket to en­sure that the prod­ucts we are of­fer­ing are, in fact, what clients are de­mand­ing to­day.

As for the im­pact of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, Ma­jid Al Fut­taim Prop­er­ties and Joseph G. Khoury et Fils have al­ways be­lieved in the re­silience of Le­banon. They be­lieve that pos­i­tiv­ity is con­ta­gious, and it is with that no­tion that we are build­ing this new city of end­less choices. Ekaruna In your opin­ion, what are Le­banon’s Real Es­tate strengths? Samer Bsat The scarcity of land and de­cent real es­tate of­fer­ings in Le­banon still places the coun­try’s real es­tate in very good light. Ekaruna If you were to com­pare the re­gional’s real es­tate mar­ket with Le­banon’s, what would your thoughts be? Samer Bsat Sta­ble and promis­ing on the medium to long-term out­look.

Ekaruna Do you think there is a gen­uine in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing prop­erty in to­day’s mar­ket or is it sim­ply a mat­ter of spec­u­la­tion? Samer Bsat There is surely a gen­uine in­ter­est, which will al­ways be the case in the prop­erty mar­ket. You have cou­ples get­ting mar­ried, peo­ple mov­ing back home, fam­i­lies who have been rent­ing who de­cide to pur­chase and sim­ply those who want to in­vest.

The ques­tion here is what in­ter­ests these buy­ers? In to­day’s mar­ket the av­er­age buyer is look­ing for the most added value with the in­vest­ment be­ing placed. As such, the de­mand is di­rected to­wards de­vel­op­ers and projects that are go­ing that ex­tra mile with ameni­ties, of­fer­ings and an over­all lifestyle.

As long as the right prod­uct is be­ing of­fered, there will be a de­mand.

“THE SCARCITY OF LAND AND DE­CENT REAL ES­TATE OF­FER­INGS IN LE­BANON PLACES THE COUN­TRY’S REAL ES­TATE IN VERY GOOD LIGHT. ”

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