Gentrification and Neighbourhood Change in Ras Beirut

in collaboration with AUB

LSE PI: Dr Fran Tonkis
Co-PI: Professor Cynthia Myntti
Duration: September 2013–June 2015


Gentrification, a set of urban processes including physical upgrading, a change in the character of a place, and displacement of vulnerable, less well-off residents and businesses, is transforming the physical and social fabric of Ras Beirut, the neighbourhood surrounding the American University of Beirut. Prior to the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), Ras Beirut and its commercial center Hamra represented the most cosmopolitan district in the city. During the Civil War the neighbourhood sustained serious damage, numerous residents fled, and squatters moved into vacant and underused buildings. The university, once a key institutional asset in the area, turned inward. For some years after the end of hostilities, Ras Beirut stood in a state of deterioration and disinvestment. More recently, real estate capital has flowed into this quarter, with its combination of devalorised building stock and desirable views of the AUB campus and the Mediterranean.

In contrast to the well-established literature on gentrification in North American and European cities, and increasing focus on cities in developing and transitional economies, there is comparatively little academic research on gentrification in cities in the Middle East or Western Asia. This research will make a significant original contribution in this context, both in terms of academic research and in its engagement with urban policy and practice.

Aims of the Project

  • To investigate patterns of social, economic and physical change in Ras Beirut through theoretically-informed empirical fieldwork
  • To develop a research-based strategy responding to processes of neighbourhood change through interdisciplinary analysis, scholarly and public debate
  • To build collaborative links between AUB and LSE in urban research
  • To build research capacity at AUB across academic disciplines and enhance the university’s practical contribution in its urban context
  • To create a base for the engagement of public, private and community sector partners in Lebanon, and with academic partners in the region and internationally

Research Team


Fran Tonkiss | Principal Investigator

Fran is Reader in Sociology and Director of the Cities Programme at LSE.


Cynthia Myntti | Co-Principal Investigator

Cynthia is Professor of Public Health Practice at the American University of Beirut (AUB).


image credit: n.karim,, 2011.


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