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Gentrification and Neighbourhood Change in Ras Beirut

In collaboration with the American University of Beirut (AUB)

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. The proposed 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.

Activities

  • Literature review and documentary analysis
  • Faculty-student seminars at AUB on gentrification and neighborhood change
  • Fieldwork and desk research integrating social scientific methods with planning, spatial and design analysis
  • Graduate student and faculty research visits between LSE and AUB
  • International conference on gentrification
  • Formation of a Task Force and development of a socio-economic and spatial strategy to protect neighborhood diversity and character in a rapidly changing urban environment


Outcomes and Dissemination

  • Creation of a multidisciplinary research group of AUB faculty and students working on the topic of gentrification
  • Studio monograph to disseminate research findings and recommendations
  • Joint academic publications, using the Ras Beirut case to contribute to empirical and theoretical writing on gentrification and neighborhood change
  • Establishment of a Beirut Task Force on Gentrification

Personnel

Project Directors

FranTonkiss62

Dr Fran Tonkiss| is Reader in Sociology and Director of the Cities Programme. Her research focuses on urban economies, development and gentrification, and urban divisions and public space. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of London, and has led the LSE’s studio-based MSc City Design and Social Science since 2008.

 

CynthiaMyntti62

Professor Cynthia Myntti| is Professor of Public Health Practice at the American University of Beirut. She has directed the Neighborhood Initiative at AUB since 2006. She has a PhD in social anthropology from the LSE, a master’s of public health from Johns Hopkins University and an MArch from Yale.

 

Research Officer

MonaKhechen62

Dr Mona Khechen is a regular consultant on urban development to the Aga Khan Foundation and the United Nations, and serves as adjunct professor in architecture, urban planning and landscape design at AUB. She received her PhD in Design from Harvard University, Masters in Planning from the Development Planning Unit at University College London, and a Bachelors of Architecture from AUB.

 
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BeirutGentrification238

Beirut, copyright Serge Melki, 2008, source: wikipedia.org