Shiny new downtown launched in Amman

Called the New Downtown of Amman by developers, the mega project spans over 384,000 square meters with a built-up area of 1,800,000 square meters

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The recently opened Abdali Boulevard megaproject in Jordan’s capital is a testimony of the security-concerned kingdom’s ability to attract investment at the time of regional turmoil.

Officially launched by King Abdullah of Jordan on June 11, the $420-million boulevard in the heart of downtown Amman is part of the $5 billion Abdali project, the largest mixed-use urban development scheme in the capital, according to developers.

Called the New Downtown of Amman by developers, the mega project spans over 384,000 square meters with a built-up area of 1,800,000 square meters, comprising of residential, commercial, hospitality, retail outlets, entertainment facilities and serviced hotel apartments.

The project was developed by Abdali Investment and Development (AID), a public-private partnership between the government-owned estate developer National Resources and Development Corporation (MAWARED), an international construction conglomerate owned by Lebanese businessman Baha Hariri (Horizon).

This joint venture was further enlarged when the United Real Estate Company (URC) – Jordan, under the group of Kuwait Projects Company (KIPCO), joined as a partner.

Mixed use

The Boulevard is administered by the AID-owned Abdali Boulevard Company whose mission, as stated in its website, is “to participate in enhancing the Jordanian economy by introducing for the first time in Amman, a truly exceptional mixed-use development that offers a blend of outdoor shopping, high-end retail outlet, modern office spaces, luxurious serviced hotel apartments and fine hospitality services.”

(Photo courtesy of Muath Freij to Al Arabiya)
(Photo courtesy of Muath Freij to Al Arabiya)

In addition to its massive economic value, The Boulevard’s significance, according to economist Hussam Ayesh, lies in its status as a mega investment enterprise implemented during unprecedented turmoil and insecurity sweeping over the Middle East.

“It is true that work in the project has commenced some time before the beginning of the regional unrest but it has continued progressing regardless and culminated in Abdali,” Ayesh said.

In remarks to Al Arabiya News, Ayesh also explained that the project has had major contributions to changing the stereotypical image about Amman as a huge “cement city” with no entertainment and public spaces.

The veteran economist also explained that Amman has expanded massively over the last years, registering unprecedented rise in the number of population to the point the city has “turned into a building over a building.”

“With Abdali in place now, Amman can be said to have tarnished the distortion to its long-held prestige.”

In press remarks in April, Amman’s Mayor Aqel Biltaji said that the population of Amman has risen to around four million, consequently adding more pressures to the capital’s municipality.

There is also a “symbolic dimension” behind building the entire Abdali project over the ruins of the previous location of the general intelligence department headquarters, Ayesh said, adding, “The intention was if give predominance to entertainment over security.”

On the economic value of The Boulevard, Ayesh said that the job-creating project will have considerable contributions to lowering relatively high unemployment rates and will lay down the necessary infrastructure for future tourism enterprises.

According to reports published by Jordan’s statistics department, the unemployment rate during the first quarter of 2014 went down slightly, reaching 11.8 per cent in January-March 2014 compared with 12.8 per cent during the same period in 2013.

Sometime before inaugurating the project, Taher al-Jaghbir, Chief Executive Officer of the Abdali Boulevard Company was been quoted in local media as saying that the entire Abdali Urban Development Project is expected to attract over 16,000 visitors a day in the first three years, indicating that studies estimate the number to rise to over 38,000 a day by 2020.

Jaghbir also said that The Boulevard consists of a pedestrian spine bordered by 12 buildings that offers 22,000 square meters of retail space to house 120 stores on the ground and first floors. The outlets space will include fashion boutiques, restaurants, cafés, specialty and department stores, he added.

“The project will enhance Amman’s commercial and residential activity and will place the capital among the regional and international top trade centers,” Jaghbir told Al Arabiya News.

2 (Photo courtesy of Muath Freij to Al Arabiya)
2 (Photo courtesy of Muath Freij to Al Arabiya)

During the launching ceremony of The Boulevard, Joseph Helou, chairman of AID, was quoted as saying during a briefing that work is under way to develop the blueprints and infrastructure for the second phase of the Abdali project, which entails having about 800,000 square meters of built-up area.

Not a ‘concrete city’

Mohammed al-Saqqaf, CEO of the Kuwaiti United Real Estate Company, also said that the Abdali Mall, which is part of the Abdali project, will be opened next year.

He added that the Kuwaiti company would continue to invest in Jordan, adding that the firm’s investments in the country exceeded $1 billion distributed in different sectors such as banking, insurance and real estate.

The entire Abdali project is expected to be ready within six to seven years, George Amireh, CEO of AID told journalists recently during a media tour at the site.

The global financial crisis was the main reason behind the delay to the project which was supposed to open in 2010, Amireh said. “Abdali will play a major role in shaping Amman’s new identity as a modern and vibrant city for years to come.”

“As a whole, The Boulevard and the next chain of projects to come will reflect the future economic planning for Jordan to be based on modernity, entertainment and trade,” Ayesh concluded.

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