CAIRO: With Forty West and The Polygon, SODIC has kicked off development of Westown, an urban center west of Cairo at the intersection of the Cairo-Alexandria and Dahshour Roads.
SODIC is simultaneously developing Eastown near the new campus of the American University in Cairo on Road 90.
Described in promotional materials as “mixed-use city centers.where you can enjoy fresh air and open space, the urban nature of Westown and Eastown represents a new concept among the otherwise residential developments surrounding Cairo.
Although on land initially zoned as residential, SODIC’s plan for new urban centers matched recommendations from Mackenzie Consultants, in a report commissioned by Housing Minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi.
Eastown and Westown will relieve demographic pressure in central Cairo and allow residents of New Cairo/Kattameya, Sheikh Zayed and other areas quick access to business and entertainment, rather than requiring a daily slog in and out of the city’s traffic.
Development occurs in partnership with Solidere International, the so-called “master-plan developers responsible for downtown Beirut’s facelift. After initially serving as consultants for the projects, Solidere and SODIC established co-responsibility for Eastown and Westown in 2008.
Architects Machado and Silvetti, whose projects include Dewey Square in Boston and The Getty Villa in California, will design Forty West; they break ground in March, residents should move in by 2013.
As the current face of Westown’s paradigm shift as an integrated mini-metropolis, Chief Commercial Officer Youssef Hammad explained that Forty West showcases “the flavor of Westown as a whole.
Architect Rodolfo Machado explained, “With the piazza – the square and its shops – we are beginning with kernel of a good city.
Responding to questions on how Forty West will manage to avoid the phoniness of Dubai, another massive urban development carried out in a desert, Machado pointed out that unlike Dubai, Cairo itself sets the precedent for Forty West’s design.
“This [Forty West] will carry the essence of Cairo, including shutters like those still visible in Garden City, pergolas, and courtyards.
Flexible payment plans and transparent customer relations allowed them to sail through the financial crisis, selling more units in 2009 than in 2008, and remaining nearly as profitable, Hamad said.
SODIC’s stability represents wider economic security in Egypt. With Westown, Hamad says that “It’s time to start viewing Egypt differently.
“We’re selling Egypt, he added.
This perspective was echoed by Mohamed Kharma, investor relations and project director of Polygon; “With Dubai’s financial straits, investors are looking for sources of real growth and demand, and they are looking to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In terms of mixed-use developments in greater Cairo, Kharma explained that SODIC has essentially no competition. “The closest, Talaat Moustafa’s Madinaty, is in a different category because it is a town in itself, whereas Westown will be part of Cairo, another hub that will draw people from the surrounding area.
“This will transform SODIC, he enthused. “Currently our market capital is LE 2.5 billion. We’re planning to retain 30 percent of Westown for leasing, the revenues of which will constitute LE 2.5 to 3 billion.you can imagine how big a scale we’re discussing.
CEO Maher Maksoud was on-hand overseeing his team in action as sales people led potential buyers and investors among the elaborate video displays of Forty West’s various apartment styles (modern Islamic, natural Zen and urban chic by Egyptian interior design firm Eklego).
Westown is advertised as environmentally friendly, although Markus El-Katsha, project director for Eastown and Westown, emphasized that climate apposite design, such as thick walls and double paned windows, take precedence over high tech innovations.
While water reclamation systems will assist with irrigation of the multiple green spaces, Chief Business Development Officer Ahmed Badrawi pointed out that most alterative energy sources are not yet commercially viable enough to provide value for the customer.
Questioned about the effect of moving all of Cairo’s wealthier residents outside of the city, potentially leaving the urban center to decay El-Katsha scoffed, “It’s already decaying. That is not SODIC’s problem. We’re not going to solve Cairo’s housing crisis with this project.
Badrawi added, “Cairo was just as much the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ as Beirut.and we want to help recreate that.