BEIRUT: Car raffles, garden beautification and a Mother’s Day block party – a campaign to revive the Geitawi neighborhood of Beirut’s Ashrafieh district kicked off this week.
“It’s an old street and many have forgotten it,” said lead organizer Georges Tachdjian.
The “Geitawi on My Mind” campaign will run for about 16 weeks and borrows from a similar campaign in 2012 that also meant to re-enliven the largely residential neighborhood.
The campaign – in partnership with LOGOS, the Mouna Bustros Foundation and Hamazkayin Armenian center – will lead several beautification projects, foster community spirit with holiday celebrations and boost business by raffling off a car and electronics to patrons of Geitawi businesses.
The neighborhood is nestled on the eastern edge of Ashrafieh and located on the hill above Mar Mikhael. The community is a mixture of various Christian sects and is home to a number of Armenians and foreign expatriates. The shop-lined streets encompass both the Roum and Geitawi hospitals, as well as a half a dozen churches.
Forty years ago, the neighborhood was once an epicenter for shopping in the city, Tachdjian said. He and his committee members seek to help restore local stores and restaurants to their former glory through a 16-week raffle.
Each of the shops will receive a supply of raffle tickets to give to patrons. At the campaign’s closing ceremony on May 4, ticket holders will vie for a number of prizes, including a new car, computers and other electronics and travel packages abroad.
“We do this to enhance or improve the sales of the shops on this street,” Tachdjian said.
Shops will begin distributing raffle vouchers at the beginning of February.
“Geitawi on My Mind” will also organize community celebrations over the next three months, including two Easter egg hunts for children, a Mother’s Day celebration and a public block party for the closing ceremony.
Planning for the events and raffle is still under way, but Tachdjian expected the Mother’s Day event would offer local moms a peaceful tribute with massages, refreshments, entertainment and small gifts.
The neighborhood comprises a hodgepodge of pre-Civil War apartment buildings, long-standing businesses and trendy new enterprises, such as several sushi restaurants and a local gym.
This year’s beautification efforts will tackle the William Hawi Garden, a small oasis on the main drag through Geitawi where collaborators will replant trees and other flora.
They will also recruit the help of local scouts to repaint elements around the neighborhood, including the stairs leading down to Mar Mikhael and a historic home near Roum Hospital.
The volunteers will refurbish the exterior of the home – which will they will rename Rmeil Nostalgia – by repainting it, though Tachdjian lamented that restoring the interior is out of their budget.
They hope to make the repainted home a relic of Geitawi’s shared history, he said.
“It was one of the first big streets in Lebanon. It was very a big deal,” he said. “We want to keep the street alive and save it for the next generation.”