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The steel framework is almost complete on the first buildings in Musheireb, the $5.5 billion redevelopment project in downtown Doha.
Construction started in Jan. 2010 on the 35-hectare development billed as the “world’s first downtown sustainable regeneration project.” Plans call for more than 100 new buildings, including a mix of commercial, residential and cultural projects near the Qatar capital’s old market, Souq Waqif.
The first phase is on track for completion in 2012, said Issa al-Mohannadi, ceo of Dohaland, the project developer, in an interview with The National.
“It is one of the fastest moving projects” in the region, Mr al-Mohannadi said.
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The architecture of Musheireb combines modern and traditional elements. Buildings were arranged in a “softened relationship,” avoiding a rigid grid pattern, to increase the cooling effectiveness of winds from the northwest.
But the designs will emphasise modern designs to generate and conserve energy, Mr al-Mohannadi said.
“We’re not mimicking the past,” Mr al-Mohannadi said. “It is taking the roots of what was there 50 years ago and developing the architectural language based on them.”
Musheireb will eventually include about 274,000 sq. metres of commercial and retail space, 850 hotel rooms and residential units to house 13,000 people.
The new buildings will compete with large master planned projects under development around the outskirts of the city.
But Musheireb is creating a new, high-quality central business district for the city, said David Dudley, regional director of Abu Dhabi and Qatar for Jones Lang LaSalle. He compares it to the Xiantiandi district in Shanghai and Solidere in Beirut.
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“It’s fairly radical for this part of the world,” Mr Dudley said. “It really will set a new benchmark for performance in the city.”
Dohaland is a subsidiary of the Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1995 by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar.
The foundation has financed the first phase of the project and part of the second phase, but Dohaland may explore outside financing for the rest of the project, Mr al-Mohannadi said.
“We will look at options if we need to go out for outside financing beyond phase two, if we need to,” Mr al-Mohannadi said.
Dohaland doesn’t plan to sell any of the buildings or residential units in the project. The revenue from leasing will serve as an endowment for the foundation, Mr al-Mohannadi said.
“We will build it and hold it,” he said.
Success for the project will be measured on criteria beyond simple rental rates and space absorption reports, he emphasised.
“There are many aspirations behind this development far beyond only to make money,” Mr al-Mohannadi said. “The whole aspiration was to spark a reaction around us and the whole city and start changing face of downtown.”