As the redevelopment of Qatar’s old downtown area continues, dozens of old shops and offices, including the well-known New World Center, have reportedly been issued eviction notices after being earmarked for demolition.
At least 50 shops on Ras Abu Aboud Street, between Grand Hamad (Swords) intersection and Dar Al Khuttub roundabout in Old Ghanim have been sent notices by the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP).
Around 15 more on the nearby stretch of Al Asmakh Street between Grand Hamad and Jaidah Tower have also been notified, the Peninsula reports.
According to the newspaper, the MMUP served notice on the properties on Oct. 21, saying they are being acquired for public benefit and that the Land Acquiring Department Services would complete the required procedures within two weeks.
It also said that electricity and water supplies would be disconnected to start demolition of properties to use the land for an “indented project.”
Some shopkeepers told the newspaper that their water and electricity were cut off last week.
Once the heart of Doha’s bustling downtown, the area was packed with hundreds of small shops and offices, many of which have been there for decades.
The New World Center, for example, is a Doha institution and has been on that site for 27 years. It was established in 1987 as an emporium that sold an eclectic range of reasonably-priced goods, from electronics to fashion, household furnishings and toys.
No one from the company was immediately available to comment on the reported closure, or to say if it would move to new premises.
Parent company Ansar Group runs a number of other stores across Qatar under the brands Ansar Gallery and Ansar City, including inside City Center Mall, in Al Mansoura, on Salwa Road, and in Al Rayyan and Al Khor.
As many of the buildings in the area start to show their age, sections of the downtown are being gradually taken over for redevelopment or to make way for the Doha Metro.
A number of businesses in Old Ghanim have already moved out, to Najma or to the purpose-built Barwa Avenue near the Industrial Area – although the owners there have complained of higher rents.
The metro will have a number of lines running across this district, including the Gold Line, which cuts right through the latest ear-marked area, from the main network hub of Msheireb, down Wadi Msheireb and Ali bin Abdullah Street to Ras Abu Aboud Street, past the northern end of Doha International Airport’s runway.
Msheireb itself has already undergone a transformation and is now almost unrecognizable to many long-time residents.
In nearby Najma, the secondhand market Souq Haraj has been under threat for a number of years as the site has been eyed by Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani’s company Al Faisal Holding for a shopping mall, City Center Haraj.
Meanwhile, Barwa Real Estate announced plans earlier this year to build a new QR500 million (US$137.31 million) mall near Msheireb district which would offer new, “affordable” accommodation for many of the small shops forced to close due to demolition in the area.
The Alaateda (“mechanical machinery” in English) mall will have space for 650 outlets and will be located on A-Ring road/Rawdat Al-Khail.
Elsewhere in Qatar, hundreds of residents were forcibly evicted from their accommodation in the Asmakh area of downtown in June, after being sent eviction notices by MMUP.
Mostly low-income, South Asian expats, the residents reported officers from the Internal Security Forces (ISF) raiding the buildings during the first week of Ramadan, breaking down doors and forcing the men out on the street.
They were seen scrabbling for their few possessions and many were left homeless as they tried to search for emergency accommodation.
At the time, some residents told Doha News that while they knew eviction notices had been posted on their buildings, they didn’t pay much attention to them as they were all in Arabic.
As rents continue to rise across all of Qatar and the country faces a housing crunch, particularly at the affordable end of the market, many of the expats voiced their desperation to find a new home.
Just days after their eviction, one worker told Doha News:
“They’re breaking down all the places where there are affordable housing for us. We’ve tried Wakra, Najma, and have found nothing. We have nowhere to go, and no one to go to for help.”