x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Sharjah to redevelop its central district

The emirate plans to raze and replace buildings built more than 40 years ago with "shining" new towers.

Fraz Mohsin lives in a small makeshift living quarters that will be torn down to make way for new development.
Fraz Mohsin lives in a small makeshift living quarters that will be torn down to make way for new development.

SHARJAH // The old and shabby buildings that dot Sharjah's central business district will soon become a part of history as the emirate seeks to redevelop the district, planning to raze and replace buildings built more than 40 years ago with "shining" new towers, officials said yesterday.

Salah bin Butti, the director general of the Department of Planning and Surveying, said the department was embarking on a comprehensive plan to demolish all buildings built during the 1970s or earlier, most of them now peeling, dilapidated and badly in need of repair. The department is working with the municipality to decide which buildings to demolish and which can be saved, he said, as he announced the plan.

Once this had been done, tenants would be given notice. In some cases this had already happened, he said, and he urged all tenants who had been served notice to move out immediately. Though he gave no time frame for the completion of the overall development, Mr bin Butti said the authorities hoped to act as quickly as possible. All old buildings in Al Ghuair, Sharqa and Umm Tarafa areas will be demolished this summer.

Once the old buildings have gone, the owners will be free to redevelop the land, but must seek approval for all new building designs from the emirate's Planning Directorate. "Otherwise the Government will take over all the land and compensate its owners for development purposes," Mr bin Butti said. However, the department has not released detailed specifications for the new buildings. "Every modern city now has a city plan that distinguishes buildings according to their location," he said. "This is exactly what we are planning to implement."

He added that the Government had a "comprehensive plan to replace the old buildings with new shining towers". Residents had mixed reactions to the plan: on one hand, some said, it represents progress, on the other it could create new problems for businesses. Ali Anjam Mohammed, who lives and works in a building he owns in the Umm Tarrafa area, was enthusiastic. "This is great news," he said. "They can start from tomorrow. This is exactly what the city needs: to be bulldozed and built from scratch to improve the lives of people who live here."

He said he would happily relocate until the redevelopment of the area is complete. Other residents and business owners, however, were not so keen on having to relocate. Mohammed Tareq, a shift manager at Kanoo's, a shipping firm in Al Marrijah, said: "This is a nightmare that could cost our businesses. Before anything is done we need to be consulted and told where we are going. "As a shipping company if we are moved to somewhere like the industrial zones then that wouldn't be so good for business, so they need to come out with a plan to see where they are going to relocate thousand of business and homes."

Saleem al Suwaidi, the chairman of the committee for the allocation of land, admitted that the project, which is in its early stages, is not without its problems. Some building owners notified that their property is to be among those scheduled for demolition expressed concerns about the process, he said. "Our utmost problem has been compensation. We have two methods of compensation: one giving cash money, whereas the other is giving land to the owner.

"Some owners complained that the compensation land given to them was not comparable to their land." Mr al Suwaidi said other problems had arisen where landowners did not have the proof of title, while others had very old documents. He said that in these cases owners would need to apply to the Land Department to confirm their claim to the land. A demolition committee has been formed to ensure that ownership of each site and demolition plans have proper documentation, said the committee head, Aisha al Jarwan.

ykakande@thenational.ae shafez@thenational.ae