Going Emerald Green

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In what is to be one of the largest joint projects between the public and the private sector in the emirate, the Abu Dhabi Municipality announced plans on August 29 for a new residential, business and hotel development to be known as Emerald Gateway. The project is the latest step to try to ease Abu Dhabi's housing shortage, and puts the emphasis on the environment and quality of living.

To be located astride the main coast highway between down town Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi International Airport, the $1.91bn development will feature two residential centres, the Canal Park Neighbourhood and the Recreational Park Neighbourhood. The former will have 42 towers built along an existing waterway, while the latter in the southern zone of the development, will have 46 towers set amidst landscaped surroundings. All of the residential and commercial elements of the development will be linked by pedestrian walkways and surrounded by gardens and parks.

The municipality had commissioned KEO International Consultants to draft a master plan for the Emerald Gateway project. Reconciling with the environment is the main target on which the project idea is built. Now approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates armed forces and crown prince of Abu Dhabi, the plan calls for the project to both enhance its surroundings and to meet community and national aspirations.

Donna Sultan, the chief executive officer of KEO, said the Emerald Gateway development was laden with potential.

"Rather than seeing the site as filled with constraints, we saw instead a fantastic opportunity of tying the master planning of the site with its geographic importance between the airport and the city of Abu Dhabi and coming up with a world-class setting for these 88 towers, that spoke to higher national and community goals," Sultan said.

The public element of the project includes the municipality providing $242.4m for all infrastructure services and the extensive landscaping, while the various private investors will be bound by strict design and construction guidelines to ensure all the buildings conform with the spirit and the standards set out in the master plan.

In May, the Abu Dhabi Municipality and KEO teamed up to launch another major development, the Mohammed bin Zayed City Commercial Towers, a $7bn development that will see the construction of 347 towers set out in five zones, each designed as a self contained mini-city. KEO has been tasked by the municipality as the programme manager for the project, with shopping arcades, parks, restaurants and lakes to complement the residential centres, which will provide housing for 50,000 people.

As with the Emerald Gateway development, environmental and lifestyle considerations are to be given priority. Work on the project is expected to be completed within five years, serving to boost housing stocks in the emirate.

Both schemes demonstrate Abu Dhabi's growing commitment to controlled development, with stricter building guidelines and also to closer co-operation with the private sector.

Both are in line with a document released by Abu Dhabi's Executive Council on August 1, entitled Policy Agenda 2007-08, which set out the future role of government and state policy. In its policy paper, the government said it would outsource administrative tasks such as data collection, programme assessment, recruitment and training activities, to the private sector.

In addition, it called for a radical overhaul of urban planning, and indicated that regulations would be enacted and that co-ordination between government agencies and the private sector would be boosted and stronger measures to protect the environment put in place.

While many of these new regulations have still to be promulgated, the Emerald Gateway project appears to have incorporated the government's commitment to environmental tourism.

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