Fancy vacationing in Baghdad? The U.S. government has come up with a plan to turn the Green Zone into a tourist destination complete with hotels, fashion boutiques, a country club, cafés, and a leisure park. The $5-billion development project has the backing of the Pentagon, and interest from several international investors, says Thomas Karnowski, a U.S. Navy captain who is leading the development team.
Since March, there has been renewed rocket and mortar attacks on the walled fortress, but that has not deterred U.S. authorities from investing in the five-year “dream list” development. The initial artist sketches show a United Nations Center, a tree-lined plaza in Baghdad’s International Village, glass office towers, and the “Tigris Woods Golf and Country Club.” Some of the development money and details have already been confirmed: Marriott International Inc. has a contract to build a Green Zone hotel, and the Los Angelesbased equity holding company C3 has committed to a $500-million amusement park. Its first phase, a skateboard park, is scheduled to open this summer.
The development will drive investment, but there are other motives too, Karnowski says. The new $l-billion U.S. Embassy, which has 21 buildings spread across 104 acres, is located in the heart of the Green Zone. The Pentagon wants to create a “zone of influence” around this national security complex, which is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. “When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbours are,” Karnowski said. “You want to influence what happens in your neighbourhood over time.” M
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