Project in Detail
Jordan Dead Sea Development Zone – Phase 1 Detailed Master Plan
CaptionProposed Corniche and Ecological Park
As the lowest point on the earth’s dry surface, the Dead Sea is an unparalleled natural attraction, with mineral rich saline waters that have drawn visitors from around the world for thousands of years. The Sea’s geological history began millions of years ago, while some 9,000 years ago the Abrahamic faiths arose, bringing a profound historic and cultural meaning to the region. Local communities, villagers, and Bedouins have inhabited the surrounding lands ever since. Today, the Jordanian coastline is nearly entirely sold and committed to developers, punctuated by a series of private “gated” hotels that are disconnected from each other and prevent public access to the shore. The nearby permanent residential community of Sweimeh is in dire need of improvements.
The Detailed Master Plan for the “Dead Sea Development Zone” (DSDZ) in Jordan encompasses 40 square kilometers of land along the north and east coast of the historic Dead Sea. Over the past 15 years, the Kingdom of Jordan has focused on a “balanced approach” towards development and preservation of the waterfront in order to capitalize on increased tourism and to provide improvements to existing local communities. The new Master Plan being submitted for a WAF award is a sustainable framework for existing committed lands, future development parcels, infrastructure provisions, waterfront access and public space, and natural resources protection that will transform and enhance the waterfront. The plan establishes a comprehensive and site specific approach to sustainable development and the diverse social, economic, and environmental issues facing this stunning waterfront setting.
Key stakeholders and agencies in Jordan were consulted at every step of the process to ensure continuity with past planning efforts and to forge a consensus plan. The Master Plan was completed between July 2010 and May 2011 by an international consortium for Master Planning, civil engineering, market analysis, and sustainability consulting.
Parallel to the stakeholder meetings, the Master Plan process followed key tasks for analysis, design, market and infrastructure feasibility, and a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), the first of its kind and scale performed in Jordan. Spatial and land constraints were studied by the consortium to establish “no build zones”, based on a “Net Usable Land Area” analysis. Substantial ecological buffers around wadis and rivers were removed from the build zones, as were slopes greater than 30%, existing ecological habitat areas, significant archeological lands, and extensive lands on the upper slopes overlooking the Dead Sea that were set aside for eco-tourism. At the same time, key market and infrastructure studies were underway to understand the current and future demand scenarios for development as well as existing resource limitations and anticipated infrastructure needs.
The Master Plan proposes a series of interconnected and publicly accessible “districts” each with its own dynamic center of activity and possibility for human interaction and engagement with the water. A full public transportation network will connect the districts to each other, to the waterfront, and to wider regional locations. Public amenities, such as a new 100 hectare public park and two new public beaches at the foot of the Dead Sea are provided, as are crucial public connections and overlooks along the waterfront. Compact, walkable centers are created that offer public gathering areas and active destinations that counter balance the current development model of privatized hotels and waterfront. Xeric species plantings and low irrigation landscapes with shade structures for comfort are proposed throughout.
Beyond a simple tourism plan, the Master Plan addresses the present and future needs of Sweimeh. The plan proposes a comprehensive approach to social and economic sustainability for Sweimeh, including job training opportunities, affordable housing, public amenities, health care facilities, community centers, schools and universities, and a logistical hub. A bus terminal and regional hospital are embedded in the plan for Sweimeh, bringing a focus and identity to its economic development goals. The proposed improvements – both public and private – leverage nearby tourism development areas and strengthen Sweimeh as a strong, sustainable community connected to surrounding industries and opportunities.
The entire waterfront is re-invigorated as a publicly accessible amenity, through strategic public access points and careful design guidelines that are sustainable over time and protect the Sea from degradation. Whereas the private hotels block the general public from free use, the proposed waterfront activity nodes in the Master Plan reach down to the Sea graciously, allowing free access to and enjoyment of the water. Nearby commercial uses – up and away from the water edge – provide gathering places for dining, passive recreation, or simple sightseeing.
Environmental sustainability strategies are embedded at every level of the Master Plan. Building off of the NULA plan, critical water and energy demand targets were calculated based on assumptions of use and behavior of anticipated populations. “Demand mitigation” factors were then applied based on a host of technical proposals and international benchmarks for green development. All existing infrastructure was analyzed in terms of capacity, and sustainable infrastructure proposed based on anticipated development. This includes the provision of water through sustainable groundwater and regional sources (mountainous wadis) as well as the inclusion of a centralized wastewater treatment facility to recycle all wastewater for return as TSEs for all site irrigation. Green design guidelines informed by the Jordan Green Building initiative and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) that gauged national and local policies and targets against the Master Plan were completed.
The Detailed Master Plan for the Dead Sea – as well as the supplemental Design Guidelines – provides a viable, visionary, and sustainable framework for this precious Jordanian resource for the next 20 years. The plan is grounded in the realities of resource availability and construction viability, while offering sustainable infrastructures that can be built incrementally. Local communities as well as regional and global visitors will all benefit from the Dead Sea Development Zone Master Plan.