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    In a picture taken through a bus window, people drive their motorcycles in Damascus, Syria, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018

    Damascus Awaits Its First Skyscrapers With Housing Complex Construction Underway

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    DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - The landscape of the Syrian capital will greatly change in the coming years due to the construction of two residential estates, with three skyscrapers from 50 to 70 floors tall planned to be built as part of the projects, executive director of the Damascus Cham Holding developer, Nusuh Nablusi, told Sputnik in an interview.

    Ambitious Plans

    For now one can see only paved roads, pits dug up for the foundations and several excavators on the territory of the future Marota City residential complex in southwestern Damascus. A couple of houses are not yet demolished because construction workers live there. Developers have ambitious plans, assuming that this site will turn into a luxurious area of European level just in five years.

    The location of the area is very advantageous, almost in the centre of Damascus, next to the district where the buildings of the Foreign Ministry and the office of the Prime Minister are located. There are also highways nearby to Damascus airport and to the border with Lebanon.

    Over 300,000 Residents, 1,570 Buildings

    According to Nablusi, Damascus Cham was established by the city authorities to manage the territories where the Marota City and Basilia City residential complexes will be built. Their construction was made possible by Syrian President Bashar Assad's special decree 66, which stipulates the redevelopment of Damascus.

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    The holding operates within the framework of a public-private partnership.

    "A partnership contract is signed with the contractor, he gets a share which depends on many factors, maybe fifty-fifty … We entered into contracts with several investors to create companies for the construction of facilities, to invest in them and sell them in the coming years," Nablusi said.

    He said that it was planned to build about 270 buildings, including 165 residential ones, within the Marota City residential project. It is assumed that about 60,000 people will be living in these houses. Over 67 buildings, which are classified as administrative, will be handed over to the Damascus City Hall.

    "Now we are in the process of obtaining permits for the construction of the buildings … We expect that by the end of the year all permits will be obtained and we will immediately begin the construction in early 2019," Nablusi said.

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    He expects that the houses will be built within five years.

    "I think that the entire project will be completed within five years — both the construction of residential houses and the construction of service facilities. That means we will finish it in 2023," he noted.

    The project involves the construction of 11 schools, five kindergartens, three gas stations, three mosques and one Christian church. A four-story shopping centre with an area of 92,000 square meters (over 990,000 square feet) will also be built as part of the project.

    The holding is also proud that this residential complex will be the first one in Damascus to be equipped with a centralized gas pipeline. Residents of the rest of Damascus are not so lucky, so they have to buy bottled liquefied gas for their household needs.

    As for the larger Basilia City project, which is located south of the southern Damascus bypass highway, its territory is four times larger and stretches over nine hectares (over 22 acres). This area is bordering the Damascus Darayya suburbs and the Yarmouk camp. According to Nablusi, it is planned to build almost 1,300 buildings, and the number of residents will be about 255,000.

    He noted that it would take about 10 years to complete this project.

    Security Issues 

    Despite the relative calm in Damascus, the security issue of the residential complex is pressing. Nablusi said that security would be ensured the same way as everywhere in the city, the same officers would be present on the territory.

    "But at the same time, we are currently working on the issue of creating private companies to perform security duties for the buildings," he said, noting that it is planned to sign a contract with one of these companies the other day.

    CCTV cameras will also help to boost the security in the area, he noted.

    "We will also control the entire territory of the residential complex with the help of the security cameras on fibre-optic cables," Nablusi said.

    In addition, a "security centre" will be on the ground floor of each building, he said. The buildings will also be equipped with fire extinguishing systems.

    Nablusi also claims that all the buildings are being built taking into account that Damascus is located within an earthquake-risk zone.

    "Otherwise, we would not get a building permit," the top manager explained.

    Objections

    Earlier, on the site of the construction site in the area called Basateen al-Razi, there were buildings constructed "illegally," unregistered and without proper permits from the city authorities. According to Nablusi, initially there were farms and gardens in these territories, but about 20-30 years ago illegal buildings popped up there like mushrooms.

    "All these illegal buildings were completely demolished, then we dug tunnels for infrastructure… this is the area of illegal buildings, we did not evict anyone," Nablusi said.

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    Western media repeatedly claimed that residents’ houses in the area were torn down illegally.

    According to the top manager, both projects were not related to the Syrian crisis, as Western media claimed.

    "Both of these projects were studied in 2007. For some reason, the media associated them with Decree 10, but that is not true," Nablusi told Sputnik.

    According to Nablusi, the property law did not help the project at all, and its implementation was even delayed for a year because of it. He explained that, according to the decree, Syrians who went abroad during the year had to provide evidence that the property belonged to them, and personal presence was not necessary.

    "Father, mother, brother, sister, wife — anyone can claim it if the owner left. If there is no claim, the house is demolished," he said.

    Nablusi explained that if the site owner managed to raise an objection during this year, then he received a part of the shares in the project.

    Who the Buyers Are

    The local population is short of money in the post-crisis period, Nablusi noted.

    "We hope that when Syrians return from abroad, the demand will increase… and we also hope that the embassies will open again, diplomats will come back, and there will be a demand for our area with all the services and entertainment," he said, answering who would be a typical buyer of the apartments in the residential complex.

    Nablusi claims that Syrians from abroad were already calling and asking about a chance to buy.

    According to the project's ad, a 580 square meter (almost 6,250 square feet) apartment will occupy a whole floor of the 13-story buildings of Marota City residential complex and will be the city's largest apartment.

    The point is not in rebuilding the city, but in redeveloping, Nablusi said, commenting on the plans of the authorities to reorganize a number of areas under the new decrees.

    "What happened in Damascus gives us a chance to redevelop the city in a modern way. Marota City will take five years, Basilia City – 10, and then Qaboun, Jobar, Barzeh [areas of Damascus] are next. It will also take 10-15 years. Perhaps in 10-15 years the whole Damascus will be redeveloped," he concluded.

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    Now, Qaboun and Jobar are areas with the largest shares of buildings destroyed as a result of hostilities.

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    CCTV camera, securities, highway, skyscrapers, Bashar al-Assad, Syria, Damascus
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