The residential Al-Sawaber complex in Sharq, considered to be a historic landmark, may soon be just another pile of rubble. The Cabinet recently issued a decree for the removal of all remaining residents by 31 March, 2016.
Well-known architect and urban planner Arthur Erickson designed the complex in 1981, as the first high density complex in the country. The complex groups 33 buildings with more than 520 residential apartments on 245,000 square meters of prime real estate property right in the heart of Kuwait’s financial district.
The complex has been mired in controversy for decades as low upkeep and lack of maintenance deteriorated its conditions. Originally, the apartments were built to house low-income Kuwaiti families, but over the years many apartments were rented out to house a large number of migrant workers. Limited maintenance and improper use of common areas led to several fires, along with conditions becoming unclean, unsafe and uninhabitable.
The government has been for years wanted to demolish the complex and encouraged tenants to move, with incentives like financial compensation or offering flats in other areas of Kuwait. According to sources, 70 percent of tenants have left the complex, but a few families tenaciously hang on citing various reasons for refusing to move.
Some tenants feel the compensation is not enough in the present economic conditions to buy a house and also, the government compensation does not reflect the property’s current value. There is also the issue of the flats being offered by the government being too small in size and being located too far from the city.
Speaking about the compensation disagreement, Sa’ad Al-Beithan, Secretary General at the Kuwait Union for Real Estate Brokers explained that the land of Al-Sawaber complex is state property that the Public Authority for Housing Welfare developed as residences for citizens. Since the land is designated for residential purposes, its price per square meter is far lower than for commercial properties and the compensation being offered by the government is fair.
Once the complex is demolished, the government could change the purpose of the land to make it a commercial property. In this case, and if it was put up for public bidding, then the property could attract plenty of investors as the land is located in a prime business area, with the Kuwait Stock Exchange, Central Bank, several high-rise office towers and other important government buildings nearby.