|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The mega-project, for that is what these sorts of things are called, is up from last year's announced Dhs1.5 billion price tag and currently stands at Dhs2 billion. That buys a 'sprawling' (according to GN) 80,000 square metres waterfront walkway and leisure area around the canal, four hotels and 450 restaurants. With six kilometres of beachfront and a three kilometre canal, the development is also, and this is the part that chilled me to the bone on the instant, going to 'transform' Safa Park into an 'integrated leisure destination'.
An integrated leisure destination. And just what is it right now? A muddy field? It's lovely right now, is what it is. It's peaceful, charming and relaxing. It doesn't need to be transformed, believe me.
Now many will know that Safa Park is home to a little building, a transformed toilet block in fact, called The Archive. It is a place of which I am immensely fond. It's a lovely idea, a community artspace, café and a growing collection of books on Islamic and Arab architecture, design and art. It sits in the tranquility of Safa Park's green sward, the path to it often takes you past playing schoolchildren or groups of leotard-clad women doing tai-chi. It's a very nice place indeed.
With the passing of The Pavilion (it's being turned into a sales showcase for one of Emaar's new mega-projects, apparently), The Archive is the only free wi-fi welcome to come here and work and meet or do coffee or whatever floats your boat space left in this part of town. And I have the horrible feeling that transforming Safa into an 'integrated leisure destination' isn't going to include leaving some scrubby little 1970s toilet block sitting there to clutter up the views of the 50,000 metre shopping mall.
The designs for the new canal show a much-changed Safa park, with the current lakes giving way to a single lake close to entrance five, extensive replanting and new walkways throughout. Few of the current buildings seem to form part of the new scheme. They might just leave The Archive as it is - irritatingly, Gulf News has slapped a label over its location in its 'infographic', so it's hard to tell. The Archive might be replaced by a new, more modern building with all sorts of facilities. Might. But I can't say it looks good from where I'm standing.
Whatever the outcome, the whole area is going to be a building site for the coming three years. Now the weather's cooling, The Archive comes into its tranquil own. I'll be spending as much time down there while I still can...