Twenty three investors were expected to start work on almost half the one million sq metre space allocated for the project, which aims to transform a prime area of the capital's centre into a high-tech commercial and residential hub.

"It took us a while to do the studies and demolish the existing buildings in the site and now we are moving fast," Abu Hamdan, director-general of Mawared, said on Tuesday.

Infrastructure work on the site will be finished next March by Abdali Investment and Development, a 50-50 joint venture between Mawared and Saudi-based Oger group, which is owned by the family of late Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

Deals pending

Land-purchase deals were expected to be concluded soon for most of the 480,000sq metres of office space in the Abdali estate, with bids coming from a mix of investors such as Gulf Arab and Jordanian real-estate firms, as well as services and financial houses.

Nearly two dozen investors are
expected to work on the project

"In the next three to four years there will be a huge number of buildings. But for the Abdali project as a whole, we are talking about a time-frame of eight years from now," he added.

Abdali's master plan, drawn up by Beirut-based Laceco architects and engineers, envisages eight towers and a large pedestrian spine, along with the campus of an American University and a convention centre on a 35-hectare site, he added.

The authorities set up Mawared as a financially independent property investment group to develop and invest in large tracts of prime state land worth billions of dollars in Amman, Zarqa (Jordan's second largest city) and other urban centres.

The government had given Mawared 2592 hectares of land once occupied by army barracks in prime downtown area of Amman and Zarqa, making it among Jordan's top five land owners.

Gulf Arab investors

Many Gulf Arab investors flush with oil revenue are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Jordanian property market, attracted by relatively low prices compared with other regional markets where prices have risen sharply.

Mawared sought foreign investors for the Abdali project but was finding strong local interest for residential units in its other major $900 million project close to Zarqa.

The government has given
Mawared company prime land

"In Jordan we don't always focus on being partners with the investor who comes from abroad ... but in some projects when there is a return we are interested in partnerships that bring us long term revenues," Abu Hamdan added.

The Zarqa New Garden City project on a 25 million sq metre site involves a 500,000 population city where the retail centre would remain owned by Mawared to help generate long-term revenue, Abu Hamdan said.

Mawared was also in negotiations with a property developer to invest in 12 hectares in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, a major resort destination which the government has transformed as a special economic zone that has seen in the last year a flurry of real-estate projects.