Following a decade long construction boom in which vast swathes of desert in the Arabian peninsula were developed, efforts are now being made to rehabilitate the older population centres in the Gulf. Urban regeneration projects are proposed or under way in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. Such schemes are important to enable older districts to compete with the newer developments and prevent them from falling into decline and even disuse.
The redevelopment of downtown Beirut is an example of the positive impact that urban regeneration can have on a city. Combined with the improved security situation, the renovation and reconstruction of Beirut’s centre contributed to record visitor numbers last year, when 1.9 million tourists visited Lebanon, some 38.9 per cent more than in 2008.
But urban renewal can also be a sensitive issue, particularly when it involves the displacement of long-term and low-income residents. The needs and rights of the existing population have to be carefully examined and managed. Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company is doing just that with its Al-Bateen Wharf scheme, attempting to strike a balance between rejuvenating the area to attract tourists, while enabling local fishermen to continue plying their trade.
Mistakes have been made in the past, which led to street protests, and governments will need to learn the lessons to prevent similar situations occurring in the future.