ZRE, the developer of the Beirut Digital District (BDD), plans to start phase B of the BDD project in May, for a total construction cost of $35 million, said Mouhamad Rabah, ZRE’s General Manager.
Phase B, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will consist of 17,500 square meters of offices with integrated ICT technology, Rabah said. “We are in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation with the Spanish embassy to learn how Barcelona has become one of the smartest cities in the world,” he said.
BDD, a 15-year venture launched in September 2012, currently consists of five buildings with a built-up area of 15,000 square meters. It hosts 50 companies that employ 1,200 people active in the ICT, digital, and creative sectors. Besides the two accelerators Berytech and UK-Lebanon Tech Hub, BDD also hosts most of the venture capital firms operating in the country. Earlier this year, BDD was finally connected to the long-awaited fiber optic network, Rabah said.
BDD will focus on providing legal consultancy services and helping entrepreneurs establish limited liability companies (SAL) that would take five days to become operational. This will speed up the process for startups to secure funding under the Central Bank’s circular 331, he said. BDD has also begun to ease bureaucratic hassles by performing governmental procedures on behalf of hosted startups, at affordable rates or for free, Rabah said. BDD has also teamed up with certified accountants to offer accounting and auditing services at reduced rates. It has put in a place an event space that accommodates 150 attendees on a daily basis. “We will negotiate with providers of training services on behalf the 50 companies that we are hosting to get preferential rates for them,” he said.
BDD was launched three years ago, following a MOU between ZRE, a private real estate developer, Berytech, the incubator and accelerator of startups in the ICT field, and the Ministry of Telecommunications, whose role is to provide high-speed broadband Internet and telephone infrastructure at preferential rates. BDD aims to host a cluster of digital startups and to provide incubator and accelerator and commercial spaces, with an information technology infrastructure.