Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Verdun going the way of Hamra and Monot?

Verdun Street is set for a major overhaul. Sewage pipes, electricity cables, telephone lines and more are to be dug up from underneath Verdun Street and replaced as soon as the summer tourist season comes to a close. This infrastructure overhaul is part of a more comprehensive plan for Verdun that includes beatification and improved traffic management. In short, Verdun appears to be going the way of Hamra and Monot streets - and to be frank, it is about time!
Verdun Street, beginning at Concorde Center is to be converted into a one-way street, with traffic moving away from Downtown and towards Ramlet el Baida. Opposing traffic will be redirected to a parallel street, which I believe is called "al-Murshid" Street. Al Murshid is also currently a two-way street that will be appropriately converted.
The President of Verdun's Merchant Association recently agreed to transform the street surface into basalt cobblestone. Initially, he opposed the idea because of what he saw as high noise pollution levels that resulted from cars rolling over the stones, and the low speeds at which drivers usually drive over them - resulting in unnecessary traffic.
The arguments that won him over were the following:

  1. Basalt cobble stones are more durable than conventional asphalt, and safer because tires stick better to it. Moreover, maintenance is easier because you can simply remove the damaged stones and replace them.
  2. Slow speeds are good for the stores because drivers stuck in traffic look around
  3. Slow driving is also beneficial because it makes Verdun more pedestrian friendly (i.e. much less likely for speeding cars to ram into pedestrians)
Another significant development in Verdun: The authorities plan to sell that monstrosity of a police station that takes up so much prime real-estate smack in the middle of the neighborhood. If they do follow through with this plan, they’d hit two birds with one stone: 1) provide themselves with much-needed financial resources and 2) make better use of that land.
All in all things may be looking up for Verdun. Now lets see if, and how well, all these improvements get implement.


Charles Malik said...

That's the ugliest police station in Lebanon. Hopefully, they'll do something about Hobeich. I walked by yesterday, and some police officer was screaming at someone and slapping him around. You could hear it from the street. Ridiculous.

Ralf said...

Hi Raja,

just to let you know that I am enjoying your series on urban issues in Beirut. Where did you hear of the plans to upgrade Verdun Street?

What about continuing your series and raising awareness about the lack of green spaces in Ras Beirut? I am pretty sure you know the following two unbuilt sites:
1) along Sadat Street, next to Smith's supermarket.
2) on Makdissi Street, across from De Prague.

Turning these two sites into public gardens, possibly with underground parking below, would provide Hamra with some greenery, children playgrounds and much-needed parking space. The costs of implemeting these measures are much less than the benefits that will be derived from this investment.

Nowhere in Beirut does one find this density of hotels, shops, banks, educational institutions etc., and few other locations are tied to as much nostalgia in the hearts of Lebanese (residents and particularly emigrants) and foreigners alike as Hamra.

You might also be interested in checking out UNDP's website and read about two of their Lebanon projects, "CHUD" and "UTDP".

While the "CHUD" (Conservation of Heritage and Urban Development) project is aimed at the historic cores of five Lebanese cities (Tripoli, Byblos, Saida, Sur and Baalbak), the "UTDP" (Urban Transportation Development Project) project deals exclusively with the transportation infrastructure in the Beirut metropolitan area. The construction activity going on in Dawra at the moment is for instance part of that project, which will see the construction of tunnels and bridges at many of Beirut's busy intersections.

Ralf said...

Sorry, I meant the worldbank website, not UNDP in the above post.

Abu Kais said...


Vox said...

There can be no salvation outside downtown Beirut.

libnanews said...

i think the land ralf is talking about are to be sold by their owners ...

Raja said...


thanks for the kind words and thoughtfull comments. I am very familiar with both plots of land that you mentioned in your comment. In fact, during the days I was an AUB student, I used to park in the Sadat street parking lot facing Smith's Supermarket.

On a practical level though, how would you convert those two plots you mention into parks?

I see the following options:

1. The Gov. (Republic, Governorate or Beirut Municipality) buys the lands and converts them to parks

2. A philanthropist does it.

3. The neighborhood (residents and businesses) come together, and pitch in to buy the lands and convert them into parks.

I personally find option number 3 to be the best one, since the Lebanese government is broke, and I don't know any philanthropists with such deep pockets. What would the neighborhood's motivation be: 1) improved lifestyles and 2) higher land value.

But, as always, you'll be faced with a free-rider problem.

Ralf, I will do what I can through this blog and through other means. Let's see where we'll get.