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Atlas of Jordan

Myriam Ababsa

Chapter nine - City Planning, Local Governance and Urban Policies

Neoliberal Openness and the Greater Amman Municipality Master Plan

Myriam Ababsa et Rami Daher

Texte intégral

1In order to compete with Beirut and Dubai as a ‘global city’ that increasingly attracts foreign investment, in 2004 Amman launched a massive project to build a new Abdali downtown, including a new Parliament and courthouse, the American University and a dozen office towers. An equity joint venture, Mawared, is responsible for managing the $5 billion construction site. The project was soon criticised for its lack of road and transport networks. Abdali Bus Station was moved to Tabarbour, which increased transport costs for commuters from Zarqa to Amman (about 70,000 per day) and brought the threat of the downtown being abandoned. The Abdali project was slowed by the global economic crisis and further affected in 2011 by allegations of corruption within Mawared. In December 2011, however, the grand mall project was re-launched with Kuwaiti capital.

2Abdali was included in the Greater Amman master plan prepared by the Canadian firm, Planning Alliance, and presented in May 2008. Its motto is : “a city with a soul,” and it plans to limit the expansion of the city, to direct investments towards mixed-sector development corridors, to revitalize the inner city and lay the groundwork for a major public transport project with dedicated bus lanes. To reduce the expansion of the city (840 km², of which 474 km² will be built on agricultural land if nothing is done by 2025), two scenarios have been put forward. The first limits the city’s expansion to 340 km² of which 225 km² would be on agricultural land, and the second, which focuses on densification, would reduce urban expansion to 170 km², taking only 96 km² of agricultural land (GAM 2008, p. 69). Two development corridors are planned to the south, and may well drive the poor out of town (Parker 2009, fig. IX.37).

Figure IX.37 — Development corridors and peripherical industrial and housing projects.

Figure IX.37 — Development corridors and peripherical industrial and housing projects.

3An urban transport plan was set up, and in 2009 work began on the first route, connecting the University of Amman with Shmeissani. Although the transport plan was well designed, the bus lane ran into criticism because of its cost at JD 255 million, which is actually low considering its length (Pinel 2011). The project was cancelled although due to the lack of urban transport only 14% of Amman’s residents use buses and private taxis (Pinel, 2011, p.33). Indeed, the number of cars on Jordan’s roads doubled between 2003 and 2009 (from 450,000 to 950,000 cars, half of which are in Amman), and during the summer months thousands of cars enter the country from the Gulf.

4Recognizing the demand for real estate in the poorest segments of society, planners from Planning Alliance put in place a system to tax additional storeys in the tower blocks built in development corridors. Hence, above the eighth floor 25% of building rights finance a Community Development Fund in charge of “heritage conservation, creating parks and social action.” The taxation of additional floors was presented as a “Made-in-Amman” solution which should help fund work for the “community” (which remains undefined) of the city’s residents. However, the 2008 plan ignores the eastern districts of the city, where services are inadequate. To free building land along Wadi Abdoun, 160 families were evicted and poorly compensated.

Urban Upgrading and Urban Activism | Rami Daher

5Amman is increasingly taking social and cultural needs into account. The city is becoming an attractive place to live in; pedestrian zones, more parks and multi-use districts have recently been adopted by the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM). One of these projects is the urban renewal of Rainbow Street, located in a historic area of the city and close to the Downtown. The project creates more public spaces (in the form of small gardens and panoramic lookouts) and gives a voice to Amman’s distinctive urban reality. Wakalat Street, in the new shopping district of Sweifieh, is considered the city’s first pedestrian street. Here the main aim was to produce an ‘Anti-Mall Space’ by creating a ‘Workable Street’ and a recreational promenade that encourages pedestrian life in Amman. The objective was to create a street that is inclusive, attracting people from different parts of Amman and creating a vibrant urban space that wins back public life from shopping malls to the ‘real’ streets of the city.

6Amman is also experiencing the adaptation of several historic urban buildings into art galleries and film production centres [such as Darat al-Funun, funded by the Khaled Shouman Foundation, Makan (an alternative space for artists and activists), Dar al-Anda, the Royal Film Commission and several more] or into urban research centres [such as the Centre for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), or Metropolis: Cities Research Council, which is the research arm of TURATH: Architecture and Urban Design Consultants] which engage in research that is more integrated into urban life. Another significant new phenomenon is the emergence of neighbourhood associations such as JARA (Jabal Amman Residents Association) and the Friends of Jabal Al Weibdeh Association which strive to improve the quality of urban life in their respective neighbourhoods (fig. IX.38).

Figure 7.38 — Re-Appropriation of Amman Public Spaces.

Figure 7.38 — Re-Appropriation of Amman Public Spaces.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure IX.37 — Development corridors and peripherical industrial and housing projects.
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Titre Figure 7.38 — Re-Appropriation of Amman Public Spaces.
Fichier image/jpeg, 119k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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