It is well known that the UAE is deeply committed to the preservation of its heritage architecture. From heritage villas in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Fujairah, to new builds such as Etihad Museum and Louvre Abu Dhabi, cultural projects are an integral part of the country’s real estate portfolio.
In Dubai, the significance of heritage-focused projects is reiterated as the festival of Diwali is celebrated this week. Each year, the city’s historic Al Fahidi and Gold Souk areas become hot-spots of activity during the festival, with traffic reaching a peak and public parking spots filling up.
Take a walk around these neighbourhoods – festival season or not – and you will quickly see why Ithra Dubai is implementing the 6.4ha Gold Souk extension scheme at the site of the tourism and commercial hub. Part of its Deira Enrichment Project, Ithra Dubai’s extension scheme will add more than 400 retail and office units to the neighbourhood, in addition to 289 homes.
On its website, Ithra Dubai, which is owned by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, says the Deira Enrichment Project will see the expansion of trading spaces and the development of plazas and a transportation hub in Deira, which it describes as “the vibrant cornerstone of Dubai’s trading legacy”. In a statement last month, Ithra Dubai said the Deira Enrichment Project would include 840 retail spaces; 400 offices, hotels, and serviced apartments; plus 2,200 affordable homes.
Ithra Dubai’s chief executive officer, Issam Galadari, said the Gold Souk extension would “preserve the character and culture” of the neighbourhood, helping it to “meet the demands of modern commerce”.
The Gold Souk extension is only one of the enhancement projects under way in historically significant neighbourhoods in Dubai. The emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority, for instance, is building the $107m (AED394m) Shindagha Bridge. Part of the $1.37bn (AED5.1bn) Shindagha Corridor project, Shindagha Bridge’s design is based on the shape of the infinity symbol. Belhasa Six Construct, part of the Belgian Besix Group, announced this May that it had been appointed as the project’s infrastructure contractor.
Not far from the upcoming bridge is the Shindagha Heritage District project, for which 150 historic buildings, including the house of HH Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, were renovated, as announced this March. These programmes are complemented by Dubai Municipality’s Modern Heritage Initiative, which will “document and protect” structures developed in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Dubai World Trade Centre, Clock Tower, Al Baraha Hospital, and Al Ras Library.
Like the UAE’s other emirates, Dubai appreciates the socio-economic value of heritage architecture, and rightly prioritises it as an area for development. The future is bright for construction and real estate companies with the skills to preserve and enhance these assets.