Derelict and 'dingy' Abu Dhabi park given a makeover

The area behind Liwa Centre cleaned up, with shopkeepers reporting a rise in trade.

ABU DHABI // Hidden behind the Liwa Centre, a once-abandoned, littered wasteground has been transformed into a meeting place for residents.

The site has been cleaned up and now offers a respite from the rubble, rubbish and graffiti common in the busy urban area.

Shopkeepers near the site, which used to be a garden with a playground for children, are thrilled by  the changes because more families now stop by.

Shamila Radhakrishna, who lives in the nearby Al Suwaidi building, said: "We are delighted to see it this clean as I have to cross it every day to reach Hamdan Street and pick up my child from the school bus."

Her family used to dislike passing by because it was not safe and smelled bad.

New bins have been placed at the corners of the site, on top of a basement car park, and rubbish collectors visit regularly.

According to shopkeepers, it has been more than two weeks since the property was cleaned up.

All entry and exit points are opened for people to pass through and no areas are blocked.

Rajshree Lakhsmi, who has lived in the area for two years, said: "I am happy to see this clean. Now children can go there, which earlier was impossible due to its dingy state."

Hitendra Kumar, who works at a shop behind the Liwa Centre, was relieved.

"Before it was a park and I wish that it would turn into a park again that would bring more families and children," he said.

Shopkeepers think once word gets out that the area has been cleaned up, more people will visit.

"Business would improve and families begin to visit our shops," said Nazrul Islam, who works at International Textile. "It's been couple of weeks since the area was renovated and families in other localities are not aware of it."

Shanid, a shayla and abaya shopkeeper, said: "After the cleanliness of the area we receive more customers."

The area fell into disrepair because of a legal dispute between the municipality and the developer.

Samir Salloum, a lawyer for Bonfood, the former developer, said:  "The matter is still in court and I cannot tell anything more."

Other officials declined to comment until a judgement is returned.

In a November 2011 interview with The National, Ashok Sarasamma, the then general manager of Bonfood, said it had planned a dining, retail and entertainment complex called "Bon City".

Two or three years ago, Bonfood began to prepare for construction, investing about Dh10 million into the project, Mr Sarasamma said.