World News

Baghdad plans 75,000 apartments to modernize slum

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The city of Baghdad asked foreign companies on Thursday to sign up for a project to design and build 75,000 apartments, the first phase of a $10 billion plan to rebuild the Iraqi capital’s sprawling Sadr City slum.

The entire 56 sq km (22 sq mile) project, to be built over 10 years, includes 150,000 apartments, stores, service buildings, a medical complex, a university and entertainment centres.

“It will be a part of Baghdad city but with new, modern construction, not low-cost construction,” Baghdad mayor Saber al-Issawi said. “We will build it in a distinctive style.”

Iraq is trying to line up at least $30 billion in housing and commercial development projects over the next decade as Baghdad tries to rebuild after years of war.

Many buildings in Sadr City, a crowded Shi’ite area of up to 3 million people adjacent to an oilfield, have been reduced to rubble by U.S. air strikes. Electric power is sporadic, water is brought in by truck and the poorest residents live in shelters improvised from scavenged materials.

The first phase of construction -- apartments ranging from 100 to 180 sq meters (1,075 to 1,940 sq feet) -- will be funded by the Iraqi government and is expected to take three to four years. The apartments are relatively large.

Baghdad placed advertisements in local newspapers to ask for expressions of interest from foreign companies.

“The work includes the preparation of the architecture, structural, and all the detailed plans for the implementation of all buildings the project includes,” the ad said.

Baghdad had hired British-based architects Broadway Maylan for the Sadr City project, Issawi said.

Issawi also said a construction contract had been signed with Emirati investment firm al-Maabar Group Company for a $15 billion housing project in eastern Baghdad in an area that served as a military base during the rule of Saddam Hussein between 1979 and 2003.

Work was scheduled to start within days, he said.

The eight-year project includes 65,000 apartments on about 5,000 acres of land, as well as a medical complex and sports facilities.

The city is planning to build a third housing project in western Baghdad with an estimated cost of between $5 billion and $6 billion.

Reporting by Aseel Kami, editing by Jim Loney