Traffic alert for mall




INVESTORS in a new BD20 million waterfront shopping mall that opened on Saturday have been given until tomorrow to come up with solutions to traffic congestion or face legal action.

The Muharraq Municipal Council held an urgent meeting yesterday after allegedly being inundated with complaints about bottlenecks caused by the new Seef Mall Muharraq, in Arad.

Residents living near the mall say they now have to negotiate large traffic queues just to reach their homes.

Seef Mall Muharraq is a joint venture by the Bahraini government-owned Seef Properties, The Malls Company and Hayakala.

It covers an area of 72,000sqm and includes a Geant Hypermarket, alongside 132 other stores and dining venues.

Only Geant is currently open, but a 14-screen multiplex featuring Bahrain’s first IMAX theatre is also due to open in July.

The Muharraq Municipal Council is now warning the mall’s outlets will not be allowed to open if investors do not agree to construct new access roads within the next two years.

They have also threatened legal action against the landowner, Muharraq Club, and the investors.

‘Over the past days, we have met the club management, investors, the General Organisation for Youth and Sport, the Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning Ministry and have asked them not to open until solutions are found for the bottlenecks and traffic jams,’ council chairman Mohammed Al Sinan told a Press conference yesterday.

‘We are not against having the mall, but we can’t accept putting people under pressure.

‘This is Arad’s main entrance and it is already packed on a regular basis since it serves the club’s mini-mall and the commercial road, which is full of shops where customers go round the clock, besides hundreds of homes.

‘For seven years, nothing has been done to ensure the place doesn’t face any problems and if the opening of a hypermarket has led to chaos in one day, then we are expecting worse with 280 venues expected to open and only 500 car park spaces available to customers at the mall.’

Mr Al Sinan also urged investors to agree to the council’s terms by tomorrow, or face being prevented from allowing any more shops to open.

‘We have different options like having a route on government coastal land that needs to be reclaimed at the investors’ expense or forcing the club to give up some of its pitches or a plot granted by His Majesty King Hamad for a youth academy, besides offering double the parking spaces,’ he said.

‘If that’s too difficult, there will be legal action and we will address the issue with the King, who granted the land to the club in the first place.’

Council vice-chairman Mohammed Herz said the public’s safety was a priority.

‘If there is an accident or the road gets blocked with burning tyres, then people will have to wait for at least 12 hours to reach home, since the main route is too narrow and packed regularly,’ he said.

‘Ambulances will not be able to reach their destination in an emergency and fire engines will take ages in case of fire, whether at the commercial strip, in homes or even the mall.’

Area councillor Sobah Al Dossary said 35,000 residents live in Arad, most of them aged over 50.

‘The main route now serving the mall besides more than 30,000 residents is blocked with heavy traffic most of the time,’ he said.

The mall was given the green light by former council chairman Mohammed Hammada during the council’s two-month summer recess in July 2007 without a council vote.

This provoked anger among fellow councillors, with current financial and economic affairs committee chairman Ghazy Al Murbati yesterday claiming no assessments were presented to the council.

‘The seven guarantees that were signed for the former chairman to grant permission that include a coastal bridge for vehicles, employing the area’s residents and turning the nearby walkway into a public park have not been fulfilled,’ said Mr Al Murbati.

Seef Properties general manager Robert Addison declined to comment

In: News Asked By: [476 Blue Star Level]

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