ABU DHABI // Thousands of residents who lack basic amenities in Khalifa City must wait longer than they expected for a Dh5.7 billion (US$1.5bn) upgrade of their neighbourhood. Modifications requested by the Urban Planning Council (UPC) to improve the district mean work on new housing and shopping developments, parkland and leisure facilities will not begin until next year. Uwe Nienstedt, the project leader for KEO consultants, said the initial plan called for building work to begin this year, "but that's not really realistic any more".
He said the council must approve a new building proposal "in about two to three months" so that Khalifa City could blend into the emirate's overall expansion, rather than exist as an independent development. Mr Nienstedt said he hoped the revised plan would make the city more urban and walkable for residents. Falah al Ahbabi, the council's general manager, said the proposed changes were necessary to bring the proposal in line with the capital's "sustainable" regulation guidelines.
"Khalifa City is an integral part of Abu Dhabi's 2030 urban development plan," he said. "In that respect, the requested modifications were essential to ensure quality of life by developing complete communities served by the expected array of services and amenities for its residents." Mr Ahbabi confirmed the council was now "in the final stages of revising the master plan". In the meantime, many residents believe there is much to be done to make the district habitable.
Lama Tahboub, a mother of three, moved to Khalifa City A last year, after her husband could not find a suitable villa within his company's budget in downtown Abu Dhabi. Khalifa City A, however, does not live up to her expectations. "We do not even have walking areas or parks," she said. "In Abu Dhabi, there are gardens everywhere, but over here, this is nothing. "There is so much that can be done here. Landscaping is key to make this place liveable."
She criticised the lack of buses and amenities for children. "There is nothing for the youth here. They don't have football fields or basketball courts, not even a community centre or restaurants to hang out in. "I don't mind staying at home, but what about the children?" Among the proposed changes are additional shaded walkways and 20 more plots for schools. Medium-density, low-rise housing will be built instead of residential towers.
Helen Monaghan Greene, who lives in a four-bedroom villa with her husband in Khalifa City A, said there were problems that needed to be overcome. "You get more space for your money here, and with the housing situation in the city, I know more people who are deciding to move here." But the area lacked greenery, she said. "Grass is something I miss here. You come off 30th Street and the roundabout is so green, and then all of a sudden you reach Khalifa City and it's sand."
And while the town now has four ladies' salons, there are few supermarkets and no banks or post offices. Mrs Monaghan Greene said the situation made her look elsewhere for basic services. "I only go to Khalifa Supermarket for top-ups or for things that I've forgotten from town, like milk or juices," she said. "I try to run all my errands before I drive back to Khalifa City, especially bank and post office runs and our weekly grocery shopping trips.
"It would be really nice if they plan it wisely. Because this is a new area and there is so much you could do with it." * The National