Al Sawaadi, urban project
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The Blue City is a $15 billion megacity project started by the Oman. The Blue City project will take up roughly 34 square kilometers along the coastal region at Al Sawaadi, only 45 minutes from Muscat. When completed, the city will include 16 hotels, two hospitals, a large university.. Also, there will be an aquarium, a convention center and a sports village which will be hosting a lot of European and international football teams for the pre-season. The chairman of the Blue City, Anees Issa, plans to announce in 2006 with the association of one of the top football club in Europe and one of the celebrity players. Only the 500,000 resident Dubai Waterfront project is bigger.
The Sultanate of Oman's largest real estate project - an estimated investment volume of more than 15 billion US dollar - will start rising in October. "Al Madina Al Zarqa - The Blue City", a completely new city with many luxury hotels for at least 200,000 citizens. ,,This is definitively the most important and largest urban project in the Sultanate of Oman. The Omani Government appreciates the cooperation with the Al Sawadi Investment & Tourism Company LLC. (ASIT) and has assured them of their utmost support and cooperation in the creation of this spectacular development", says a speaker of the Omani Government.
With an area of 35 square kilometres and an investment volume of 15 billion US dollar "Al Madina Al Zarqa - The Blue City" is not only Oman's largest real estate project but currently also one of the most interesting projects world wide. "Although construction is only about to start, we are experiencing an unbelievable demand for all types of housing units. If this continues, all units will be gone within six months. This has exceeded all our expectations", says Anees Issa, Chairman of ASIT. In October construction will start in parallel with infrastructure, public facilities, four major luxury and ultra luxury hotels and housing units.
On the 15 billion US Dollar finance of this spectacular project ASIT is being advised by Swiss-based Oppenheimer Investments AG who have appointed Bear Stearns, the seventh largest investment bank in the U.S., to act as bond placement agent. "We are extremely honoured to be part of this great project and would like once again to reinforce our commitment to the success of "Al Madina Al Zarqa - The Blue City", says the spokes woman of Oppenheimer Investments AG in Switzerland.
"Al Madina Al Zarqa - The Blue City", however, will be much more than just a tourist city. It will promote tourism, education and health projects. "We want to create job opportunities for the approximately 30,000 Omani entering the job market every year", says Issa. "Al Madina al Zarqa for us is creating the perfect harmony between economic success and environmental commitment, between traditional values and modern spirit, between the pride of the Omani people and all our respect for the individual", says Ahmed Abubaker Janahi, President of Bahrain-based AAJ Holdings, one of the shareholders of ASIT.
The Blue City Project is said to be 'On Track'. The 35 sq km Blue City is centred at Al Sawadi on the Omani coast some 100 kilometres northwest of the capital Muscat. It will take 15 years and $15 billion to complete over several phases. Work on the $1.9 billion Phase One is scheduled to start at the end of 2005.
The Blue City is also designed to attract over two million tourists a year to its five-star facilities, just 30 minutes by road from the country's international airport.
"Giving birth to a brand new city is no easy task. But despite the fact that we announced this massive development only in June, we are on track to start work at the end of the year", said Anees Bin Essa Al Zadjali, Chairman of ASIT (Al Sawadi Investment and Tourism Co), Blue City's development company. "Much credit for out steady progress must be given to the many Omani authorities and Ministries with whom we are working very closely. We have made great strides towards meeting our goals on schedule and there will be news of our achievements most weeks between now and the end of December," he added.
Planning a visionary, vibrant, modern yet subtle development for 250,000 people is complex and delicate. The blue City is not just a real-estate project. It will create a whole new community, meeting all the needs of its residents to include education, health, communications, shopping and entertainment facilities.
A key element of the planning for the Blue City has been for the visionary designers and builders to meet Oman's stringent environmental requirements. Internationally-renowned companies have been brought in to provide environmental studies and vital initial strategic reports have already been prepared and submitted.
Protecting the Environment is Key
The environmental effects of Blue City's land-based construction have been studied by the international consultants WS Atkins International & Co and a strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study was submitted at the end of October. An initial 'Scoping' study had been commissioned earlier and was completed in July. Throughout its research, WS Atkins worked closely with Oman's Ministry of Regional Municipalities Environment and Water Resources (MRMEWR) to determine the core issues surrounding implementation of Phase One.
"The potential impacts on the physical and social environment of a major scheme like Blue City are significant and have to be closely managed. The Atkins team have drawn upon their global and local experience to inform the project team and to assist in the development of strategies which will aim to place environmental mitigation at the centre of the design and construction process," says Roger Nickells, Resident Director of Atkins in Oman.
Phase One of the Blue City development includes a coastal frontage of 16 sq km and a number of environmental studies are being undertaken by the specialist consultancy Posford Haskoning Environment Gulf (PHE_Gulf) of Bahrain and their U.K. partners Royal Haskoning. PHE_Gulf was appointed on 1st August and an initial study and modeling to determine the wave and current modeling and the sedimentation impact of the shoreline has already been completed.
Frank Fortune, General Manager of PHE Gulf said, "PHE Gulf is excited to be involved in such an ambitious project. Together with specialists from Royal Haskoning in the UK we are working on water circulation, sediment transport, wave action and water quality aspects of the development. We are also looking at ways in which some of the existing natural heritage at the site, particularly the Khawr and mangrove beds, can be integrated into the wider Blue City development."
Underpinning the whole project has been to hammer out the details of a unique Concession Agreement between the project developers and the Omani authorities. The hundred-plus-page document is a first for the region as there has never been such an agreement between a wholly private real-estate company and a local government. And the agreement provides ground-breaking advantages for truly freehold ownership of property for foreigners and where the inheritance laws of the owners' home country will apply.
Phase One focuses on 5.5 sq km and includes strategic seed investments in the tourism and residential sectors and all related technical and social infrastructure.
o Three five-star hotels, each with approximately 200 rooms, private beaches, marinas and comprehensive sports, leisure and wellness facilities will be located along the beachfront. Negotiations are underway with world-renowned hoteliers and the first hotel-operation agreement will be announced by the end of the month.
o One golf resort hotel will be located within a double 18-hole championship golf course laid out along the Creek. Details of an agreement setting up the Middle East's first natural beachfront signature golf course are soon to be released.
o A tourist village, with a contemporary Arabian souq and almost 1,000 apartment units and a heritage museum embrace the opposite side of the creek.
o Approximately 1,200 villa/apartment units will be integrated in the Golf Course Park.
o Several public and semi-public attractions will complement the tourism and entertainment program of Phase One, including a waterfront amphitheatre at the tip of the triangular peninsular blessed by spectacular natural scenery.
In all, 6,000 residential units will be built over this area and the complex negotiations with many contractors are a continuing feature of getting this project underway and on schedule.