x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pakistan community centre could be completed by year-end

Cost-cutting could help Pakistani hall be finished later this year.

DUBAI// A long-awaited multipurpose hall for the Pakistani community could be completed by the end of the year after plans for a "luxurious" interior were toned down to lower costs.

The Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD), which is developing the centre, said the changes to the original designs could save Dh2 million.

The group initially wanted the interior to include high-quality wood furniture and a state-of-the-art sound system.

"We have reviewed the plans and cut down on the luxury for the interior of the hall," said Mohammed Khaleeq, an executive member of PAD and a former general secretary of the organisation. "We had planned for some nice wooden finishings but that will be replaced by aluminum and we will look for a mid-range sound system."

The project was stuck in limbo for more than a year after funding for the Dh6.5m project ran out, leaving only the outer shell of the building complete.

At the time, the association appealed for a further Dh4m.

"With these changes the money we need to raise will be about Dh2m," Mr Khaleeq said.

There are plans to launch another appeal in September, after the summer holiday period ends.

The PAD approached the Community Development Authority (CDA) for funding but were told the organisation was unable to provide direct financial assistance.

"We are all determined to finish this hall as soon as possible because we know how important it is for the community," Mr Khaleed said.

"Finding money for the building would not have been a problem but for the financial crisis that hit a few years ago.

"But we will be appealing to all sectors of our community for help."

Dubai's Pakistani community has been waiting for a hall for more than 20 years. Hopes were raised in March 2010 when the foundations for the building were laid. But work was halted in April last year after cash ran out.

Although the outer shell of the two-storey building has been completed at a cost of Dh2.2m, the interior is empty.

Many within the community have given up hope that the project will ever be finished.

"They keep promising that this hall will be built but we haven't seen anything happen for a long time now," said Imran Hafeez, a Pakistani who lives in Bur Dubai. "We get an announcement that they are working on the hall then everything goes quiet for months."

Jamal Masudi, who lives in the Springs, said: "With the way the economy is at the moment, it will be very difficult for the PAD to get people to donate more for it.

"The community has been waiting for this for such a long time that the association needs to think more creatively to get the funding."

Fund-raising options include giving naming rights to the centre to big sponsors or large donors as a way of encouraging them to give more, said Mr Masudi.

"It's a real shame that for a community that has been in the UAE for decades, we still do not have a dedicated community space to call our own," he added.

Among the funders is the Pakistan Embassy, which donated Dh500,000 toward the cost.

The hall is next to the PAD centre off Oud Metha Road in Bur Dubai.

There is space for 650 people, an attached library with 16 computers and an area for indoor games such as table tennis and badminton.

The ground floor of the 1,688-square-metre hall is to include a lobby, a kitchen, toilets and a 43-space car park. There is to be a first-floor gallery that can seat almost 200 people.

nhanif@thenational.ae