Bahrain plans $63m hi-tech park
Manama, June 18, 2012
Bahrain will start work a BD24 million ($63.66 million) state-of-the-art public park early next year, said a top government official.
The project will take three years and will see the overhaul of the Grand Muharraq Garden close to Bahrain International Airport.
It will include Bahrain's first full-size ice arena, which will cost BD4 million, an aquarium and aquamarine centre, a major karting track and spectacular amusement rides.
The garden was initially suppose to be turned into a 'miniature Disneyland', but was scrapped two years ago. Councillors tried to revive the plan last month but the Kuwaiti investor faced financial difficulties and the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry decided to go ahead with a new project.
Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Nabeel Abu Al Fateh officially signed a 30-year agreement yesterday with Bahraini investor Fouad Shuwaitar at a ceremony held at the ministry's headquarters in Manama, during which plans and artists' impressions were revealed.
The garden has an area of 93,000 sq m, but buildings will be constructed on 111,000 sq m, which will also include large green areas, restaurants, a fitness club and gym, an elderly centre and family resting areas.
It will feature a commercial complex on the side of the airport which will be leased to airlines, car rental companies and cargo providers, and will include a business centre, banks and insurance offices.
Plans for a hotel and furnished apartments have been cancelled based on orders from Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi and the Muharraq Municipal Council.
Dr Al Ka'abi said the park would be Bahrain's most expensive public facility that would for the first time see an investor spend more than BD20 million.
'This is the first investment of its type that we have agreed to allow in any public facility as before we used to have services that were related to family recreation rather than give the go ahead for pure commercial buildings,' he said.
'We have to think about the future and this new approach to investment will be followed in other developments whether on the Al Ghous (Diving) Corniche in Muharraq or other public facilities that we want to revamp. Yes, the investor will benefit from the garden as business projects will be built, but the public will benefit too with a lot of new projects that range from an aquarium, ice arena and karting track.'
Dr Al Ka'abi said they took the demands of residents into account before signing the deal with the investor.
'The hotel and furnished apartments have been cancelled and replaced with a fitness centre, gym and special club for elderly that will have a games and music centre besides other recreational facilities.'
Syrconsult International Planners and Consulting Engineers partner and chief executive officer Mohamad El Tawil, who is designing the park, said work would take three years.
'Around 60 per cent of the total garden land will be green and open to the public, while 40 per cent that will see a number of vertical buildings will be offered for businesses,' he said.
'We will build on an area of 111,000 sq m and 39,000 sq m will be offered to businesses and the rest will be used as support facilities for the project. There are currently plans for 1,650 car parks and 16 gates, besides a special club for the elderly that we are building as a contribution to the community.
'Within the upcoming six months we will finalise things with other ministries, government bodies and contractors, before beginning work in January which will continue until January 2016.'
Meanwhile, Shuwaitar said that thousands of dinars will be pumped into a fund to help the area's needy.
'The garden is part of my identity as a resident of the area and I am already a well-known philanthropist who donates a lot to the community, but thousands of the project's proceeds will also be directed to offer further support and help,' he said.
'If my hometown, neighbours don't want a hotel and furnished apartments and I can't force it, despite the area just having the Movenpick Hotel. At any moment, if residents come up with ideas we will consider them and make necessary changes to our plans.'
The Royal Court has earlier agreed to study a proposal to rename the park after His Majesty King Hamad as the 'Grand Hamad Park' because it is the first government facility that visitors to the country would come across after leaving the airport, in line with a suggestion issued by councillors. – TradeArabia News Service
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