After having entertained, inspired and educated millions of visitors over 180 days, Expo 2020 Dubai drew to a tearful close on Thursday. For its hundreds of thousands of loyal patrons, the event more than a destination; it was an emotion.
As a loyal visitor, Nahla Abdul Latif, says: “You forget the chaos of the world you live in once you are at the Expo.”
The big question is: What will happen to the sprawling Expo site now that its giant portals are closed for the final time at 3am on April 1?
The mega event’s lessons in building a better tomorrow will help a’ 15-minute’ smart city called District 2020 evolve from Expo 2020 Dubai.
District 2020 will re-purpose 80 per cent of the Expo’s build environment into an “integrated mixed use community that will continue to attract businesses and people to work, live, visit and enjoy”, according to the Expo website.
When will the first businesses come up?
The first cohort of 85 startups and small businesses will set up shop at District 2020 by the end of this year.
Nadimeh Mehra, vice-president of District 2020, said last week that the selected startups can operate from District 2020 rent-free for two years.
Tala Al Ansari, director of Innovation Ecosystem and Scale2Dubai, a global entrepreneurship programme, said the startups will receive a “soft landing at District 2020 and will become part of our innovation ecosystem”.
When will the first set of residents move into District 2020?
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times earlier, a senior official said residents would move into apartments at District 2020 by early next year. About 800 residential units, available only for rent, will be handed over starting from Q1 next year, along with about 2,300 apartments at the nearby Expo village, according to Sanjive Khosla, senior vice-president at District 2020.
Will any of the current Expo attractions be retained at the site?
Residents and employees will enjoy some of the iconic landmarks of Expo 2020, which live on after the mega event, including the gravity-defying Water Feature, observation deck Garden in the Sky and the iconic Al Wasl Plaza.
What about pavilions?
Tenants and visitors will also get the chance to indulge in some country pavilions that stay as major cultural attractions, including the UAE, Saudi and India ones.
The Sustainability Pavilion (Terra) will be transformed into a Children and Science Centre, while the Mobility Pavilion (Alif), Vision Pavilion, Mission Possible, and Dubai Exhibition Centre will remain unchanged.
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What will it be like to live and work in District 2020?
District 2020 will be the UAE’s first 15-minute city. Everything they need — from offices, parks, groceries, retail shops, restaurants and coffee shops — will be accessible within 15 minutes by cycling, walking or riding e-scooters.
The key is to make living car-free by connecting people via pedestrian walkways, autonomous vehicle routes and public transportation networks.
Khosla calls it a “human-centric” city, which is essentially “a city designed around people, not around buildings or cars”. They are designed to fulfil the needs of people who will live and work there.