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RAWABI – PALESTINE’S FIRST PLANNED CITY

Palestine’s most ambitious real estate project to date is based on a ‘green city’ concept and will eventually provide a home for 40,000 Palestinians.

June 2015

After four years of a near standstill, Palestine’s most ambitious real estate project to date is finally able to start moving forward and make first steps towards becoming what its developer envisages Rawabi to be: A new Palestinian destination.

Located 9 km north of Ramallah, Rawabi’s municipal boundaries encompass 6,300,000 square meters of land, which will initially be home to 25,000 residents, housed in 6,000 units. Additional residential and commercial units slated for subsequent construction phases are aimed to ultimately serve a city with a population of more than 40,000.

Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, the developer of Rawabi, which is jointly owned by Qatari Diar and Massar International, is currently developing around one million sqm in the first phase of the project. The company was established with “a mission to create affordable, accessible, family- friendly communities and create several thousand direct and indirect employment opportunities for Palestinians, providing multi-level stimulus to the national economy.”

The masterplan, which was developed by AECOM out of New York in partnership with a local Palestinian workforce, is laid out for development over 20 years.

Ground for the project was broken in 2008 and, despite several hindrances posed by political issues, has made progress with the first two out of a total of 23 neighbourhoods now nearing completion.

This month, 700 Palestinian families will become the first residents of Rawabi City.

A new community

In addition to the housing units, the city will encompass a central commercial area with banks, retail shops, restaurants, cafes, medical facilities, offices, a hotel, a movie theater and three cinemas. The city will also offer eight schools, green spaces, playgrounds, civic services, church and mosques.

Housing consists of 1 to 4 bedroom apartments, ranging from 93 – 340 sqm, with prices set around USD 80,000 – 220,000, depending on size.

Rawabi’s ‘WaDina’ is a 145,000 sqm entertainment area including a water park, soccer field, volley ball field, walking trails, restaurants and cafés, and an impressive outdoor theater. The Romans-style theatre has a capacity for more than 15,000 spectators with a 700-square meter outdoor stage. It is the largest venue of its kind in Palestine and one of the largest in the Middle East, and will eventually see international artists from around the world perform.

The city centre will compose Rawabi’s commercial element for which Palestinian businessman Bashr Al Masri, Chairman of Bayti, has ambitious plans. He wants to create a “Palestinian Silicon Valley,” an ICT hub to attract companies like Google, Microsoft etc. to outsource their businesses there.

In addition to ICT, the “investor-friendly commercial center” aims to provide opportunities for media and entertainment, education, and healthcare. These sectors are expected to create 3,000-5,000 permanent jobs, “leading to a sustainable economy that will drive Palestine’s progress,” says the developer.

Amir Dajani, Deputy Managing Director of Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, adds: “The city centre will be a business incubator. We encourage international firms to work with Palestinian partners. I’m looking for Cisco to put 100 jobs into the city which will help us with capitalising on the young intelligent Palestinian workforce.”

Another unique trait of Rawabi City is its infrastructure, a first in Palestine. Rooftop water tanks (commonly found atop of every building in Palestine) have been completely eliminated.  Rawabi’s telephone, electricity and gas lines are all run below ground which lends the city a unique, clean look.

Rawabi Green City

Rawabi is also dedicated to environmental sustainability. The masterplan applies environmentally responsible landscape and development practices designed to preserve the natural features of the landscape.

The vision is to serve as a prototype of the first Palestinian green city and ultimately, “to guarantee a higher quality of life for present and future generations.”

In addition to eco-friendly building features, construction uses a large percentage of recycled materials from Rawabi’s own natural resources. Furthermore, multiple aspects of the residential lifestyle at Rawabi enhance sustainability, including its community gathering spaces and education, health and cultural facilities.

In order to reduce CO2 emissions, public transport within the city is not permitted, however Rawabi will have its own public transport system based on the usage of electric cars. The city also has its own wastewater treatment plant which will collect, treat and reuse reclaimed wastewater.

Contribution to the economy

As previously mentioned, one of Rawabi’s core objectives, in addition to the provision of housing for the middle/upper-middle class, is to provide jobs for Palestinians, to attract businesses and to stimulate the Palestinian economy.

Unemployment in Palestine is high, and the biggest challenge for the private sector is to create jobs.

Whilst Rawabi has already achieved to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the construction sector, the challenge is to create permanent jobs in the city itself, Dajani explains. “Our main focus now is to build a small economic embryo within the city, to create 3,000 to 5,000 jobs for teachers, working mothers, entrepreneurs, and the companies that are interested to launch their operations in Rawabi,” he says.

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