ABU DHABI // Outside the capital, among half-constructed suburbs, is the tract of land where the Urban Planning Council's vision of the future will first come into focus. Its name is North Wathba. Designed from the ground up to be a model of efficiency, usability and comfort for its residents, it incorporates all the elements of the Urban Street Design Manual - revealed on Saturday - now being applied to the redesign of Abu Dhabi.
The result should be a city dramatically different from most of Abu Dhabi, which was built for cars at the expense of pedestrians. Even driveways will get a makeover. "Here [in Abu Dhabi city], even in villa neighbourhoods, you essentially design each driveway as an intersection because the cars actually have the right of way and the pedestrian, when they want to cross, has to step down into the driveway," said Bill Lashbrook, planning manager at the UPC.
Located to the south-east of the planned Capital City District, North Wathba will eventually house 125,000 residents in about 17,000 residential units. It is designed for a mix of office, retail and community buildings as well light-industrial facilities. Its roads have been designed to establish a network of "safe, legible and efficient streets", according to the manual. Interconnected streets are being used to encourage walking, cycling, the use of mass-transit and the movement of vehicles.
Mosques and open spaces are in the middle of each block while commercial facilities, schools and civic centres are placed near junctions. More than 65 per cent of the community will be within 300 metres from public transit. Most residents will be within walking distance of schools, shops and mosques. The street grids are designed in part to benefit from winds from the north-west that can provide natural cooling. The town centre is literally that, where the grids intersect. The town's metro station will be built there as well. An elevated metro and a tram line will run along the main avenue. There will also be bicycle paths and walkways. There are also plans to build areas where there will be more shade.