By Conrad Prabhu -
One of Muscat Municipality’s most prestigious urban beautification projects — part of a series of lavish schemes designed to give the capital city an elegant makeover — is now under way in the Wilayat of Seeb.
The Seeb Waterfront Development Project is a multimillion rial initiative with the potential to transform a mundane stretch of beachfront into a stunning leisure destination quite unlike anything that the capital city can presently boast of (perhaps with the exception of Muttrah’s Al Bahri Street).
With plazas, landscaped parks, walkways, gazebos, cafeterias and fountains, the redevelopment project promises to add much character to a waterfront stretch hitherto frequented only by fishermen and a handful of beachgoers.
Viewed in conjunction with plush mixed use tourism and residential developments under way further south along the Al Hail, Al Athaiba and Ghubra seafronts, the Seeb project will serve as an extension of what is billed as a grand waterfront boulevard that will be pride of Muscat.
Leading landscaping specialist Proscape Al Ansari LLC has been selected by Muscat Municipality to implement the Seeb Seafront Development project. The company is a joint venture of Dubai-based Proscape LLC and Al Ansari Trading Enterprise LLC of the Sultanate.
Proscape’s portfolio of landscaping contracts include the prestigious Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), Mall of the Emirates, The Walk — JBR, and Mirdiff City — all major landmarks of Dubai.
In remarks to the Observer, Proscape Al Ansari’s General Manager, Paul Thomas, said the Seeb venture represents his company’s first major foray into the Oman market. The JV’s expertise spans both hard and soft landscaping, automated irrigation, water features, engineered timber elements, landscape lighting and outdoor furniture, he explained.
Preliminary work has already commenced at site covering a roughly three-kilometre stretch starting from just beyond the existing Seeb fish souq and extending all the way to the boundary wall of the palace. Much of the redevelopment is focused on a 50-60-metre wide corridor along the beach, according to Thomas.
Clusters of old, nondescript buildings located within this corridor will be pulled down to make way for a series of plazas each boasting a cafeteria, shallow commercial building with retail kiosks, water closets and other amenities set within delightful landscaped garden settings. In all, seven plazas are envisaged at intervals along the 3-kilometre waterfront stretch.
A striking highlight of the project is a star-shaped pier that will jut into the water’s edge, affording visitors panoramic views of the coastline on either side. The pier will house a modest-sized amphitheatre set under a sail-shaped canopy.
In keeping with the project’s theme as a waterfront-style boulevard, all of the amenities and features are designed keeping the pedestrian in mind. Consequently, there will be walkways and even a dedicated cycle track integrated into the promenade. Benches will be a ubiquitous feature, enabling families and visitors to relax by the water’s edge.
In fact, the project has been conceived keeping in mind the interests of people of all ages. For the young and energetic, there will be specially made courts for beach volleyball and basketball constructed along the seawall.
For children, there will be play areas and amusement corners, operated by licensed private companies. Adding much appeal to the waterfront is a series of fountains — seven in all — along with other water features.
Also as part of its brief, Proscape Al Ansari will build a pedestrian bridge that spans a wadi that cuts through the project area en route to the sea. The structure will enable visitors to safely cross over to the other side of the promenade, says Thomas.
Significantly, the contract awarded to Proscape Al Ansari represents the first stage of a phased initiative to transform the Seeb waterfront into a tourism and leisure destination. In the next stage, the existing fish souq will be shifted out of its current location to a dedicated area adjoining a new fish harbour currently under construction in Seeb Wilayat.
Of late, parts of Muscat that have lagged the chic appeal of much of the rest of the capital are being progressively taken in hand for a makeover designed to enhance the city’s urban charm. Downtown Ruwi, Hamriya and Ghala are all targeted for a facelift that will see rundown sections of these neighbourhoods significantly spruced up. The initiative has received added impetus this past year in the wake of the designation of Muscat as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2012.
Phase 1 of the Seeb Seafront Development project is slated for completion by the end of next year. Well-known engineering firm Parsons Oman is the design consultant.