Give it to the People…

By Fahed Khitan

تم نشره في Sun 20 November / Nov 2016. 01:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Sun 20 November / Nov 2016. 09:09 PM
  • Fahed Khitan

Within a few weeks, the Municipality of Greater Amman will evict what car rental offices still on campus of the King Abdullah Gardens to begin a comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation process; but to what end?

The King’s Gardens are a recognisable, prominent site in Amman west, extended over 85 square metres, worth nearly JOD200 million in the market value.

The Mayor of Greater Amman, Aqel Baltaji, does have some ideas, albeit initial, on what to do with the Gardens. But he does not intend to enforce his views. Instead, he is considering opening the subject up for discussion —not for referendum though— among residents of Amman, civil engineers, as well as experience and creative architects.

On a smaller scale, the ideas circulating are typically un-innovative, and do not go beyond the dominant market culture in addressing the city’s identity, barely reeling out of a composite crisis that makes the city of 7 mountains more like a cement garden and a massive car lot.

These ideas range from dedicating areas within the Gardens for parking lots, public transportation complex, restaurants, marketplaces, and entertainment.

Right now, the Gardens are cultivated with concrete buildings and very ugly architectural constructions, with very little green and trees, contrary to its name. And all around it are crowded residential and commercial neighbourhoods, with a traffic intersection that is now known as the “Gardens Intersection.”

My suggestion is, for specialists at the Amman Municipality to discuss, is to really turn the Gardens into real gardens; woods of trees and grounds for picnickers, instead of markets and stones. A forest that gives the city space and the congested area around it a clean, green outlet, and a place for sports.

So far, the Municipality has not hesitated to exploit all possible areas for cultivating trees and green, and has built an impressive number of gardens. Still, we need to keep up with the pace of the cement expansion, which has overrun our trees and green spaces, leaving with barely a breath of fresh air. Hence is value of such an indispensable spot at the heart of Amman.

To be fair, the Mayor’s idea to bring the whole thing up for discussion with the residents of the area is a modern, excellent idea; taxpayers and residents have the right to an opinion on what affects their lives. In many places around the world, Municipalities propose referendums for residents on development schemes and projects, making sure as many as possible are included in the prioritisation process before any decisions are made.

 In Switzerland; where the referendum mechanism is widely adopted, the uprooting of an aging tree, in one of the cities, required province-wide referendum to decide its fate.

And in defence of my proposition, I would say that the area is packed with restaurants and commercial markets, as well as parking lots. The Abdali “Boulevard” alone provides sufficient entertainment and marketing options for a vast audience. And right next to it, a massive commercial mall just opened.

Nonetheless, these areas, with all the towers and high buildings, leaving barely some space for air, lack green scapes and trees.

Give us this small piece of land, an outlet, before we are suffocated of all the exhaust fumes and the cement jungle that surrounds us.