x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Abu Dhabi to survey residents on amenities

A legion of workers hired by the capital's Urban Planning Council will knock on 11,000 doors to ask which amenities residents want - and which ones they do not.

Picnics, bicycle paths and indoor pools are on the agenda.
Picnics, bicycle paths and indoor pools are on the agenda.

ABU DHABI // Whether it is a park within walking distance, convenient food shopping, an indoor fitness centre with a swimming pool or a local clinic, the government agency responsible for shaping the emirate's urban framework wants to know what its neighbourhoods are missing.

Beginning today, workers hired by the Urban Planning Council (UPC) will visit 11,000 random households in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia to ask residents about the facilities and amenities they use, which ones they want, and those they could do without. "People have made it clear that they want a basic array of community services in their neighbourhoods," the UPC's senior planning manager, Michael White, said yesterday. "This is a way to validate that and get more specific information. They want shopping nearby, schools nearby, they want to be able to have a gymnasium with a sport-playing field nearby."

The "Style Your Life" survey covers everything from the desire for more local cafes and salons to how far people would be willing to walk to the cinema. The survey is to take two months to complete, with results to be made public early next year. They could be used to help shape a future Neighbourhood Planning Manual, with changes implemented over the coming months and years. "It's a full suite of community amenities," Mr White said. "We're interested in schools, community centres, women's centres, health facilities - right across the board. In all our plans for Vision 2030, we're looking at building complete, sustainable communities."

Making every aspect of life accessible to all residents is the goal, but the effort would also help the UPC's sustainability initiatives by making services more convenient. "It reduces emissions, increases walking, reduces reliance on the car, and provides for more livable neighbourhoods," Mr White said. Because of the cultural diversity of the emirate, understanding neighbourhood demographics and "lifestyle patterns" could help planners design the best communities to suit residents.

"For example, what types of community recreation facilities would be needed?" he said. "Is it going to be a more traditionally North American gym, or is it going to be an outdoor playing field type of experience? Is it going to be football or cricket? That's one of the types of things we're trying to understand." Basel al Ogaidi, who lives in the Al Zahraa district near Muroor Road, has been looking for a nearby gym to join for two years.

As for what services he would not miss, he said most of the community wants car-rental businesses moved, to unclog the car parks. Although the 29-year-old Iraqi was content with his neighbourhood, mostly for its proximity to his daughter's kindergarten and a hypermarket, he lamented the lack of indoor recreational facilities. A pool would be nice, but even the five-minute walk to the local shop feels laborious under the direct sunlight, he said.

"We tried once walking to the grocery store, but you come back and you're not happy carrying them all the way up," Mr al Ogaidi said. "It's not suitable to walk at one o'clock in the afternoon, so there needs to be some shaded walkways." Even when the weather is cool enough for a day out, the 15-minute drive to Khalifa Park can feel a bit out of the way. "Of course walking is better," he said. "We'd rather walk there."

Deepak Thomas, a bank employee who lives in the Tourist Club Area, is preparing for a move to Khalifa City A, which would be a half-hour drive from the city centre and further away from shopping centres and entertainment facilities. "Right now it's five minutes to the park and Abu Dhabi Mall is right there and there is a hospital and clinic close by," the 32-year-old from Kerala said. "I don't know once I move to Khalifa City what's there."

Abdulla Ahmed, a senior associate planner with the UPC, said the survey has about 30 questions and should take no more than 15 minutes. mkwong@thenational.ae