A new face: Urban development projects transform the regional capital

A host of urban renewal and infrastructure projects have completely altered the cityscape of Oujda over the last decade as part of a strategy aimed at revitalising the regional capital. Infrastructure programmes have had an impact on nearly all elements of the city. Highway access roads and city entrances have been built or rehabilitated; the medina, the historic city centre that retains an important commercial role today, has been renovated to preserve its cultural identity; and a large public square was developed at the entrance of the medina in the same style as the famous Jemaa El Fnaa in Marrakech. The municipal government also created a number of parks and it is working towards the goal of having 6 sq metres of green space per inhabitant.

The city’s primary school and daycare network was expanded to bring these services closer to the population, and recreational facilities are being developed across the city. Four covered sports arenas are already complete and another two were under construction in 2014. On the cultural side, the Sidi Yahia Oasis, a traditional escape for city dwellers located to the south of Oujda, has been renovated, and a 1200-seat theatre is set for completion in 2014. In the near term, remaining work will be focused on upgrades to the urban road network. The road refurbishment programme is two-thirds complete, according to the city council of Oujda, but has yet to reach all neighbourhoods. OUJDA URBA PÔLE: Moving forward, the priority will be on a mixed-use urban development programme, Oujda Urba Pôle, that aims to redevelop 30 ha near the old train station. The project will be executed in four phases between 2010 and 2019, with a total projected investment of €222m. The first phase, Les Quais Verts, brought the redevelopment of a 4.7-ha area into residential units, office spaces and commercial infrastructure. Phase I was completed in late 2013 and is being commercialised by Compagnie Générale Immobilière, a subsidiary of the Caisse de Dépôts et de Gestion.

In the project’s second phase, currently under way, a new train station will be constructed 6 km outside of the city. The current train station occupies a key area in the heart of the city, and an adjacent, disused industrial zone is taking up valuable real estate. As a result, a new station will be built on a 5.6-ha site outside of the city centre in order to transfer industrial and transport activity away from residential and commercial facilities. A direct connection is set to be built between the train station and the Oujda Technopole, located 12 km from the capital. The existing train station, originally constructed in 1920 and the oldest in the country, will be converted into a museum, surrounded by facilities such as a shopping centre, four- and five-star hotels, office buildings and high-end residences. Phase II of the programme is slated to be complete in 2015.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: The city council of Oujda is also studying various proposals for the creation of an urban public transport network. The third meeting of a commission that consists of both Moroccan and French players is set to be held in the first half of 2014, where the mode of transport will be decided and the project will enter the production phase. This could entail either a tram network, similar to those installed in Casablanca and Rabat in the last five years, or a high-quality bus service. The city council also partnered with the French city of Aix-en-Provence in the early stages of the project, in order to benefit from its expertise. Previous tramway projects in Casablanca and Rabat have involved significant input from foreign companies in the construction and management phases.

In short, local authorities are working to restore Oujda’s identity as a regional capital, as well as a centre for trade, transit and tourism in the Maghreb. In a decade, Oujda went from being a marginalised and underserved market to an interconnected and growing metropolis, with the potential to serve as a centre for intra-Maghreb trade in the long term – particularly if cross-border activity with Algeria picks up. Further improvement to Oujda’s infrastructure and amenities will be critical to the effort to attract investors to the region and capitalise on the investments made so far.

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The Report: Morocco 2014

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