Browsing 'Barwa Al Baraha' News

Oryx Island

Penny Yi Wang

One of the country’s largest real estate developers has quietly shelved plans for a $5.5 billion (QR20bn) artificial island resort off of Doha’s coast, according to its top executive.

Last year, Barwa Real Estate unveiled its proposal to construct Oryx Island, a 445-acre land mass featuring luxury villas with private beaches and a water park. It was also intended to accommodate several cruise ships that could be turned into “floating hotels” to accommodate some 25,000 football fans during the 2022 World Cup.

When asked by Doha News about the status of Oryx Island, Ahmed Al Abdulla – Barwa’s acting CEO – said his company’s vision had been to make use of the material generated from constructing the Doha Metro:

“We expected more than 40 million cubic metres of excavation material (to be created from constructing the rail project). We proposed (Oryx Island) to solve and handle those excavation materials, half of which were to create this island, but it did not go through,” he said at the annual Cityscape Qatar real estate show – the same venue the company used to announce the project last year.

While some are bound to be disappointed by the decision to shelve plans for Oryx Island, local residents will soon have a wealth of other new hospitality options, as more than 100 hotels and serviced apartment blocks are currently under construction.

On the high-end front, there are also plenty of these types of residential properties available in Qatar, including thousands of completed units at the Pearl-Qatar and new properties at Lusail, a 38 sq km manmade city located on the coast of Qatar.

Fox Hills

Barwa launched sales of its first 231 units in the Fox Hills district of Lusail on Monday and sold out within 24 hours, Abdulla said, adding some 100 would-be buyers have asked to be put on a waiting list.

When asked why homeowners would purchase off-plan in Lusail over completed units in the Pearl-Qatar, Abdulla conceded he was a bit taken aback by the interest among buyers:

“I’m surprised,” he said in an interview. “The Pearl is ready. Some of (their) prices are less than our price. But people trust in us and are buying.”

Barwa’s development in Lusail, dubbed “Dara,” will ultimately include 53 buildings containing some 1,000 residential units. Abdulla described it as a mixed-use community with hotels, coffee shops, spas, health clubs and other amenities.

“You will be able to walk between the buildings. If you see Fox Hills, many of the (other proposed) buildings are (owned by) individual investors. They will build it, fence it and that is it. But here, we are creating (a community),” he said.

Construction will start this year and is slated to wrap up in the first quarter of 2017.

While different portions of the Lusail City project have fallen behind schedule, Abdulla didn’t offer any comments on previous timeline targets. When asked why Barwa is only starting to build now, he smiled and said, “Now is the right time.”

Workers’ city

Meanwhile, Barwa officials said they expect the first residents of a massive new “Worker’s City” residential development in the Industrial Area to move in July 1.

Eight of the first 23 Barwa al Baraha buildings have already been leased to companies employing laborers, with the balance expected to be taken by September, Abdulla said. Some 20,000 workers are expected to be living in Barwa al Baraha – which also contains four dining halls, two mosques and other amenities – by the fall.

Barwa Al Baraha

Peter Kovessy

Another 20,000 residents will be housed in the next phase, which is currently under construction and is expected to be completed within 18 months. A final phase will contain a medical clinic and accommodate senior staff in single-bedroom units.

A truck parking lot, billed as the world’s largest, opened on the site in January.

The 1.8 million sqm development was originally expected to be completed in mid-2010, a year before Qatar implemented a ban on single men working with contracting and construction companies from living in residential areas.

In arguing that Qatar is committed to improving conditions for the country’s labor workforce, the country’s labor minister made a publicized visit in February to the Worker’s City, which was called a “tribute” to the country’s expat population when it was launched.

A Barwa official confirmed that a typical bedroom on the site is designed for six people and furnished with three bunk beds. That would appear to exclude it from accommodating workers directly involved with World Cup or Qatar Foundation projects.

Earlier this year, the country’s tournament organizing committee released standards for workers’ living and working conditions that including a ban on bunk beds and a maximum of four people assigned to a room, mirroring QF requirements.

When asked about the accommodations, a Barwa official at the company’s Cityscape booth said, “Whatever the government standards are, we’ll abide by it.”

Thoughts?

barwa2

Omar Chatriwala / Flickr

Firmer implementation of Qatar’s labor law and new complexes for low-income workers are the government’s answer “to any outside media reports” that criticize the country’s rights record, Labor Minister Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh al-Khulaifi told journalists yesterday.

During a visit to the under construction “Workers’ City” in the Industrial Area, the minister said that the 1.8 million square meter Barwa Al Baraha project, which will eventually accommodate some 53,000 low-income expats, was just one example of how Qatar is committed to improving conditions for the country’s labor workforce.

Speaking to the Gulf Times, the minister admitted that recent articles in the international press criticizing conditions for migrant laborers had given the country “a bad image,” prompting some to call for an overhaul of the country’s public relations strategy.

However, he stated that the government was opting to respond to critics with “actions to prove our statements.” He also told the newspaper that he hadn’t read the articles in question:

“I haven’t seen them and I haven’t inquired into them. I have so many activities on the ground. I am a boots-on minister and not an office minister,” he said.

More inspections

Part of the work at hand involves enforcing the country’s existing Labor Law. The Ministry of Labor carried out 40,000 inspections of work sites, offices and camps last year, a number that is expected to rise significantly this year, al-Khulaifi said.

He added that his office is working with Qatar Central Bank (QCB) and the Ministry of Finance to address issues with late or withheld salary payments. The intention is to make it mandatory for private companies to open bank accounts for each employee, he said.

He pointed to other recent projects such as the new Al Khor workers’ sports facilities and West End Park as further examples of ways that Qatar is improving the lot of low-income workers.

He also signaled the establishment of a new park for laborers in Al Khor – the first, he said, of several such facilities which are intended to be built around the country.

Project delayed

The $1 billion Barwa Al Baraha project has been under construction since 2008. It was originally slated to open in 2010, but has been subject to a number of unexplained delays.

In January, Barwa announced the completion of Al Baraha’s first phase, the opening of a truck parking lot billed to be the world’s largest. However, media reports suggest this is still significantly underused.

The second phase, which involves building accommodation for some 53,000 low-income expats and employees, is now well underway, with some 32 of its residential buildings expected to ready by the summer.

When the entire development is completed, it will include amenities like dining and laundry services, as well as shops, a mosque, sports fields, used car showrooms and office space.

A shopping center, health center and safety center with police, civil defense and fire prevention services will also be set up, according to Barwa’s website.

Accommodation concerns

Journalists given a tour of Barwa Al Baraha yesterday were shown examples of typical bedrooms on the site, some of which were designed for six people, and furnished with three bunk beds.

This layout, however, contravenes new minimum living and working standards laid out for laborers working on 2022 World Cup projects, which specify that “there are to be a maximum of four beds to a room, with bunk beds and bed sharing prohibited.” A Qatar Foundation Workers’ Charter, announced last April, also included this rule.

Similarly, a handbook of guidelines for temporary labor camps published by Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee last year echoed these regulations, as did a 2005 law governing accommodation in these camps.

However, it is possible that Barwa Al Baraha’s status as a permanent, purpose-built facility has allowed it to house more workers in each room.

Barwa has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Thoughts?

barwa al baraha

Omar Chatriwala/Flickr

Barwa Al Baraha, a more than $1 billion development in the Industrial Area that has been under construction since 2008, has announced the completion of its first phase this week, with the opening of a truck parking lot billed to be the world’s largest.

The second phase, which involves building accommodation for some 53,000 low-income expats and employees, is now well underway, and some of its buildings will be ready in a few months, said an official of the Waseef Company, a subsidiary of Barwa Real Estate Company that is managing the project.

Speaking to the Qatar Tribune, Chief Operation Officer Hassan Jummah Al Muhannadi said:

“Work on the Barwa Al Baraha project, which will accommodate 50,000 workers in 64 buildings when fully complete, is going on in full swing. Eight of the buildings are almost complete. Each building has 132 rooms.”

He added that 32 three-floor buildings in total are expected to come online by the end of 2014, and work on the other half of the accommodations will start later. Rent is expected to be “reasonable,” though rates haven’t yet been determined, the official said.

When the entire development is completed, it will include amenities like dining and laundry services, as well as shops, a mosque, sports fields, used car showrooms and office space. A shopping center, health center and safety center with police, civil defense and fire prevention services will also be set up, according to Barwa’s website.

Delayed development

When the 1.8 million sqm “Worker’s City” development was first announced in 2008, Barwa called it a “tribute” to the growing expat community. At the time, its expected completion date was mid-2010, a year before Qatar implemented a ban on single men working with contracting and construction companies from living in residential areas.

Since then, companies have been complaining about the difficulty of relocating their employees due to a lack of affordable housing outside of Doha.

Meanwhile, the truck parking lot that opened yesterday was slated to be ready in 2009.

Its launch comes at a convenient time, as by the end of this month, trucks and heavy machinery will no longer be allowed to park within Doha’s city limits.

Why the Barwa Al Baraha project has been so delayed is not clear.

At Cityscape Qatar in 2012, Barwa told Doha News that the parking lot was completed. But gaining the necessary approvals from different government ministries appears to have hampered its opening. Two years ago, it also expected the housing complex to be finished by 2014.

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