The Doha skyline has changed dramatically over the past five years. As real estate prices soared, developers scrambled to cash in on the boom by building a forest of high-rise towers along the Corniche and the West Bay area.
Although it remains an impressive sight from a distance, on closer inspection it is now clear that Doha’s piecemeal development model lies in ruins.
As the real estate market has stalled this year, the West Bay has been left with a mixture of newly completed towers that remain largely empty, and half-built projects that appear to have been abandoned by their developers.
It is a sad sight that simply should not happen in Qatar. Doha’s income from its vast energy reserves means it can afford to build projects regardless of the economic climate. So why have projects ground to a halt?
The answer is planning. In the mad rush to build real estate, it is now clear that many developers did not plan their projects properly, and as soon as economic conditions changed, their flimsy business models no longer stacked up.
Although these were private sector projects, the government should have managed the situation better. It needed a comprehensive vision outlining what Qatar would look like in the future.
Luckily for Doha, a document that will govern Qatar’s development will be finished at the end of this year. And when the Qatar National Masterplan is published in January 2010, there will no longer be an excuse for abandoned projects in Doha.
While developers may fear this will stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector by introducing European-style planning regulations, it is a necessary evil as it will reduce the risk of projects being abandoned by ensuring new developments are properly designed and cater to a true market need.