By Jen Thomas www.thenational.ae
ABU DHABI //A new bus station, new community facilities and a park designed like a maze are part of the newly unveiled master plan for the Shahama and Bahia neighbourhoods.
The first to be developed by the Urban Planning Council (UPC) in line with the capital’s Vision 2030 plan, the revitalisation project will ensure that the outlying communities meet the Government’s vision for the emirate.
UPC officials said the plan, initially announced in early 2009, was developed with the 27,000 residents of the communities in mind.
“This master plan is trying to achieve a certain harmony in the capital,” said Amer Al Hammadi, the director of planning and infrastructure at the council. “We want to achieve high standards for people living in these areas.”
The plan contains specific guidelines for upgrading and improving the 1,770-hectare area, which is about 30km outside the city centre. With an emphasis on connectivity and sustainability, the master plan calls for the creation of new neighbourhood, town and regional centres to meet residents’ needs.
“We’re promoting walkability and livability,” said Yousif Al Fahim, an associate planner
at UPC. “We’re promoting shading, pedestrian friendly neighbourhoods and encouraging people to utilise parks and open space.”
Large, unused open spaces will be reintegrated into the community, according to the master plan. More than half-a-dozen parks, each with a different theme, are in the design stage, and the available spaces could be used to build more housing to accommodate population growth.
Infrastructure and road network improvements have also been worked into the plan. The Department of Transport is designing a new bus station, and a bus network connecting the two communities with surrounding areas has been proposed.
The ultimate goal is to transform the areas into vibrant communities that promote a “sense of place relating to local culture, climate and contemporary lifestyle”, according to the UPC.
“Among our key priorities is to provide easy access to vital community amenities like shopping, health facilities, entertainment and sports centres and educational hubs, all of which are the core focus of this master plan,” said Falah Al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC.
The planning area is separated into two distinct districts – the Shahama and Bahia communities and the coastal area of Bahia.
In coastal Bahia, the proposed design for the town centre was influenced by the marina and sea. A redefined coast and beachfront homes are part of the plan.
Retail and community facilities are also an integral part of the Shahama and Bahia Revitalisation Master Plan. In addition to shopping malls, the neighbourhoods will be designed to improve access to centrally located health, educational and entertainment facilities.
Development in the Shahama and Bahia neighbourhoods has already begun, but Mr Al Hammadi declined to cite an estimate of the cost of the revitalisation efforts. The project, which began two years after it was announced, was delayed because planning “took a very long time”, he said.
The UPC collaborated with residents to come up with the recommended improvements. More than 140 community members weighed in during meetings called charrettes, and their comments were worked into the final design.
“It was important that we talk with the people,” Mr Al Hammadi said. “We’re developing these unused areas and want to maximise their usage and use them well. To do that, we needed to consult with the community.”
The population of the two areas is expected to increase to about 50,000 people, predominantly Emirati, in the next 10 to 20 years.
Master plans for other areas, including Baniyas and Khalifa City A and B, are still under development, and more details are expected later this year.