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From Belfast to Kuwait comes the City of Silk

Kuwait: Tuesday, February 26 - 2008 @ 14:32

The planners for the 21bn KD ($77bn) Madinat al-Hareer, or City of Silk, describe it as a 21st century city in the Middle East that is more than just a development opportunity for investors. The aim is to honour the history of Arabian architecture and culture, putting emphasis on the family.

Some 200km sq in size, it will create around 300,000 jobs and be home to between 700,000 and 750,000 people. The ‘City’ is actually made up of 30 communities, each housing between 20,000 and 25,000 people. The land area will also include a 40km sq wildlife sanctuary – one of the largest in the Middle East.

‘We’re looking to create over 300,000 new jobs and that’s not just for Kuwaiti citizens but also expats. Kuwait has one of the fastest growing middle class populations in the Middle East and it is desperate to find way to house them,’ said Eric Kuhne, Managing Director of developer Eric R Kuhne & Associates.

Titanic

The initial idea for City of Silk came from a new development in Belfast in Northern Ireland, a city which had previously suffered from sectarian violence that had divided the area. The government wanted to turn reclaimed land previously known as Queens Island (now renamed Titanic Quarter), where the Titanic was built, into a new community.

The £1bn project, which was given the go-ahead by the British government in October last year, will create some 20,000 jobs and provide residential and business space in the once derelict Harland and Wolf shipyard. So many people were leaving the area that the government wanted to create a cultural centre that would give them a reason to return, creating new businesses and jobs and eventually encouraging 500,000 tourists a year.

‘We discovered that trying to restore Belfast as one of the premier capital cities of Europe we had to focus on the family as the molecule. As people exited Belfast, we had to give them a reason to come back,’ said Kuhne.

The City of Silk is a far larger project and rather than using European or North American models to design the city, it turned to a more traditional Arabic feel, using Islamic culture and ethos.

‘Families in the ME are the molecule of all life. They tend to be a bit larger than families in Europe and North America and they move as a group not individuals. So we felt the city had to reflect that. I get quite upset when I see people bring American suburban models into the Middle East because it is wholly inappropriate,’ he said.

The plans were approved by the government in November last year, and initial plans for its development are now in discussion. Developed over several phases, work is expected to take until 2030.

New communities will be rolled out each year, with the bridge to connect Kuwait City and the Bay and the City of Commerce happening first. That city within the scheme is opposite Kuwait City and next to the new airport, and is where about half of the new jobs will be.

Tall tower

In the centre of the project is the 1,001 metres high Burj Mubarak al-Kabir (roughly translated, it means Tower of the Mighty Blessed). Taking its name from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world and have around 230 storeys. Kuhne said it would take 10 years to get underway.

‘It was always intended to be one of the tallest, not the tallest. We’re not trying to compete in height, we’re just trying to compete in quality,’ said Kuhne. The Emir and Prime Minister of Kuwait have sought to find an icon that will establish the skyline, he added.

Once built, it intends to be one of the more environmentally friendly cities. Seven trees are being planted per person living in the city, plus it will make extensive use of indigenous plants and trees and grey water and sea water.

Developers are working with the Sea Water Foundation, and plan to use sea water for one third of the irrigation of parks, gardens and golf courses. Sewerage water will also be purified and used in parks and gardens.

‘I want City of Silk to be known as a garden city. Garden cities used to be only the province of the monarchies and the super rich. To me a democratic city creates access to those luxuries for everybody. The democratisation of luxury is a phrase that we use to describe how contemporary society must evolve in order to get full trust of and confidence of its citizens.’

See also:
Audio: Kuwait 2008 economic outlook
Audio: Kuwaiti law to boost foreign investment
$1.5 trillion for a 10 year GCC infrastructure boom

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Tuesday, February 26- 2008 @ 14:32 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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