The Plan For Downtown

Posted on: August 30th, 2009 by Ramsey 18 Comments

Visions for Downtown

Over the next six years, if things work out as municipal planners hope, the entire way downtown Amman works will change — for the better. Here are some details on the grand plan.

Written by Nicholas Seeley. Provided by JO Magazine.

UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF HE Mayor Omar Maani, the Greater Amman Municipality has embarked on an ambitious plan for development and revitalization of the city center. The municipality has a vision of a modern, friendly city, with a revitalized downtown as its cultural and touristic core and the new Abdali development as its commercial core — a place where people will be able to easily walk or take public transportation, to enjoy public spaces and explore different neighborhoods. Think Vancouver with an Arab soul.

If this plan is given the attention and follow-through it requires, it could transform both how Amman looks and how it runs. If poorly executed, the targeted area could continue to fall into disrepair and disuse — as it has in the face of past attempts at revitalization, like the stalled development of the Raghadan bus station and Hashemite Plaza.

We at JO have neither the resources nor the precognition to judge how this plan will be carried out, or how well it might achieve its goals. But we sat down for in-depth interviews with the Mayor and other municipal officials to learn as much as possible about what is going on, and how they hope the city will change in the future.

THE CORE OF THE MUNICIPALITY’S downtown strategy is the Wadi Amman Regeneration project, a multi-focused plan to develop different areas of the city center for purposes including transportation, tourism, housing and business development.
“That valley, where modern Amman originated 120 or 130 years ago, has been neglected for a while, and we feel that there are a lot of possibilities for socioeconomic development in that area,” Maani said. Phase One of the Wadi Amman project will begin later this year; it’s a plan that city officials estimate will take at least six years to realize.

The project extends over a three-kilometer stretch of the city’s central valley, and is divided into three sections. The first, Wadi Mahatta, runs along Hashemi Street from the terminal of the old Hijaz railway to the edge of the Raghadan palace grounds.

“What we envisage is that Wadi Mahatta will be primarily a very important internodal public transport station,” Maani explained. “You’ll have the light rail coming from Zarqa, if we can do it. Then you’ll have the Amman light rail [coming] out of it, you’ll also have the main station for all Amman for the Bus Rapid Transit [system] that we’re doing, and you’ll have service and taxis also feeding into it. So it’s the main public transport station for all Amman, down there.”

The second stretch, Wadi Raghadan, is where the road passes by the palace. This, Maani said, will have mixed-use applications, including a small convention center, restaurants, offices and new developments for middle-income housing.
At the moment, he added, very little commercial or economic activity happens along these stretches of the wadi — much of it is simply empty land. For the entire Wadi Amman project, the municipality has expropriated some 380 dunums for development. A few organizations will be affected, and planners are currently looking for a new location for Tkiyet Um Ali, which is in the expropriated area, as well as for a couple of businesses.

“What we plan to do is bring back a lot of vitality and a lot of attention to those neglected areas,” Maani said.