x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Master plan breathes new life into Baniyas and South Wathba

A master plan for the Baniyas and South Wathba neighbourhoods will lead to improved roads, new schools and walkable communities.

ABU DHABI // New roads, clinics, schools, police stations and neighbourhood centres for Baniyas and South Wathba were announced yesterday as part of a master plan to revitalise the two suburban communities.

The plan is designed to bring the two areas into line with the capital's Vision 2030, and to integrate them more closely with the growing Abu Dhabi metropolitan area.

As well as the 6,500-hectare area of Baniyas and South Wathba, where the population of 69,000 is expected to increase to more than 120,000 by 2030, the plan covers Al Nahda and some small villages along the border with Al Ain.

"One of the major guiding principles was to create a balance in these neighbourhoods," said Amer Al Hammadi, director of planning and infrastructure at the Urban Planning Council.

"We have a settlement with different uses, and in some areas, this mixture of uses - residential and commercial and government - could be improved."

As with the recently unveiled master plan for Shahama and Bahia, the proposals emphasise community and connectivity.

"We worked hard to create a connected area, with things close together," Mr Al Hammadi said.

“One of the biggest challenges in terms of accessibility is that the highway divides the settlement in half, so we worked hard to improve the existing intersections between the areas.”

This is the second master plan unveiled by the UPC this year. They are part of an effort to integrate all the older communities in the capital with new development, under the umbrella of Capital 2030.

The plan is also an example of how existing communities “can be effectively revitalised through the implementation of transport, community facilities and housing options, while building on the existing social fabric and infrastructure framework”, the UPC says.

Neighbourhood and district centres are part of the plan for Baniyas and South Wathba, about 20km southwest of Abu Dhabi island. Community facilities including clinics, petrol stations, schools, police stations and government services will also be easily accessible.

“A centres approach was adopted to ensure all residents are within walking distance of community facilities and amenities,” said Humaid Al Marzouqi, an associate planner at the UPC.

Streetscapes designed for walking and cycling will be dotted with parks and open spaces. Retail and commercial outlets will be available in mixed-use centres. New bus routes with better regional connections will link the neighbourhoods with the island.

“Baniyas-South Wathba comprises some of the emirate’s oldest housing communities with their own individual characteristics,” said Falah Al Ahbabi, general manager of the UPC.

“The successful integration of these communities with the emerging metropolitan area is a key focus of our revitalisation master plan and an important precondition of the successful realisation of Vision 2030.”

About 9,000 plots in the area will be allocated for Emirati housing, including the Dh3 billion Bawabat al Sharq project, where 1,300 villas and apartments will be available by the end of next year.

Some of the residential areas will be built in the style of traditional Emirati neighbourhoods. Called freej, these neighbourhoods are built up in clusters designed as an interconnected network, with play areas, shaded walkways and amenities close together.

The communities covered by the master plan are primarily Emirati, and the region will be built up as a self-contained and comprehensive city.

Work on the revitalisation project has already begun. The municipality has started improvements on some existing Emirati areas and plans for parks, community facilities and schools have been approved. Maintenance work that began on roads and infrastructure two years ago continues.

“We are talking about a revitalisation plan,” Mr Al Hammadi said. “It is different from a development plan … seeing the results may take some time. Someone who is not familiar with the area may not even recognise it.”

Other master plans, including those for Khalifa City A and B, will be unveiled later this year.

jthomas@thenational.ae