Building a vision and a program for the campus to engage further with its surrounding
From January 21st to January 25th, 2019
One of the basic assumptions behind the 2017 adopted AUB master plan is the peak in real estate values throughout Beirut that rendered the University’s expansion impossible beyond the campus walls. The current real estate slump generates challenges this assumption. It suggests that the University may have important opportunities in the coming 2-3 years to expand its campus area through targeted investments in the city. Potentially lucrative, these interventions can also benefit Beirut’s crumbling economy if they are designed with an intent to generate university-led development opportunities in the vicinities of the university.
From AUB’s perspective, such interventions can empower the University to intervene on the type of (building and economic) development in areas of immediate effects on its campus. It can also protect Ras Beirut (and AUB) from several negative scenarios in which the area’s real estate would fall prey to long term speculators and/or forms of development that would contradict the university’s interests.
In Lebanon, AUB leads the way among all academic institutions in its establishment of the Neighborhood Initiative, a civic-minded AUB unit that looks to enhance AUB’s positive spill-over effects in the neighborhoods of Hamra and Ayn el-Mreisseh that surround its campus. Since 2007, the Neighborhood Initiative has worked with the Municipality of Beirut and non-governmental organizations to generate an active civic life in the university’s district animate and pedestrianize streets, encourage social interactions and environmentally responsible practices.
The NI has also launched several applied research studies to explore the possibilities of reducing AUB’s traffic and residential pressures on neighborhood dwellers. Much of these interventions have however also been constrained by AUB’s limited ability to intervene on the prohibitively expensive real estate market. The change in conditions can consequently allow AUB to revisit its master plan in partnership with the NI, in ways that can support the future expansion of the University and its need to carry out a variety of public services that benefit surrounding communities.
This workshop addressed, among others, the following questions:
What are the functions and activities that AUB should think of from the extension plan outside its campus boundaries? In addition, through what type of process will AUB secure the needed real estate in this objective?
The main output of the workshop was different visions and programs for the campus, which aligned with the objective of having AUB engaging further with its neighborhood.
Knowing that a later stage -probably in March 2019- complementary working sessions will take place, with the main objective of identifying the needed list of actions along with related costs. The results of both phases will be submitted to AUB’s administration.