Free workspace, 2-year visa: Project to help Expo 2020 Dubai site become business district after mega event

District 2020's Scale2Dubai programme will support international startups and small businesses looking to move to a new market

By Husain Rizvi

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Photos: Expo 2020 Dubai
Photos: Expo 2020 Dubai

Published: Fri 17 Dec 2021, 10:32 AM

Last updated: Sun 19 Dec 2021, 5:54 PM

Even after Expo 2020 Dubai ends in March 2022, the world fair site will live on as a vibrant business district.

Equipped with academic institutes, hospitals and state-of-the-art building managements systems, the District 2020 project will build on the legacy of Expo 2020 by becoming a residential and business hub for UAE residents.

Nadimeh Mehra, the legacy project's vice-president, spoke to Khaleej Times about a programme called Scale2Dubai that helps international companies move to a new market.

The programme offers many benefits, including a free workspace, visa for two years, and help for setting up startups and small businesses, ultimately “encouraging global co-creation”.

“When companies come and establish in this ecosystem and work with other companies that are in different countries, the global scale will be unimaginable,” Mehra said.

As a central business district, Dubai's District 2020 is set to attract visitors long after the Expo. “People will live and work in District 2020, and it is really going to start to underpin the growth of this area,” she said.

Its aim? There are two, Mehra said. “One is that we wanted to ensure that we repurpose as much of the event as we could. And that's really the hard legacy,” she said, adding that District 2020 aims to utilise at least 80 per cent of everything that was built.

The soft legacy, on the other hand, is the “critical component” - creating an innovation ecosystem that sets them aside from other mega projects that have planned legacy events in the past.

“This innovation ecosystem is built on a smart city. Expo 2020 has built that smart city which is hosting an event right now for six months. Once the event finishes, the smart city remains and gets taken over by District 2020.

“Dubai has a very strong innovation agenda. It's led by the leadership, and many other government entities are following suit. So, that creates job growth and new industry growth," Mehra said.

District 2020 has estimated a population of about 145,000 people will visit, live and work at the hub over the next 25 years.

“It's a very sustainable growth, where our planning from a development perspective is very market-driven. And, I think that's important for Dubai; we need projects that are market-driven, that are based on demand,” Mehra said. “Once the event is finished, and we repurpose our built assets, we're not really building anything else until the demand is there to build more.”

Talking about the human-centric city of the future, Mehra listed its key features. One of the thematic pavilions, Terra - the Sustainability Pavilion, will remain as a Children and Science Centre. The Mobility Pavilion will continue to educate citizens around mobility, the movement of people, goods, data, and the history of mobility for us as a civilisation.

Al Wasl Dome, an architectural master-class, will continue to rope in people for events. The breathtaking waterfall feature will continue to thrive as a must-visit destination.

Visitors to the Expo site are already familiar with the walking tracks, parks and countless other activities that will keep future inhabitants engaged in a rich-city experience. The country pavilions will either transition into commercial office space or contemporary residential apartment units.

Mehra also provided insights on the few pavilions that were built to serve a long-lasting purpose.

“The Saudi Arabia pavilion always planned to build to remain, so did the Indian pavilion, which will become a trade hub. And the Saudi pavilion will focus on cultural exhibitions around its country," she said.


The other country pavilions will remain temporarily, but it is up to the respective country or District 2020 to make use of them.

“However, country pavilions, many of which already are sold on to their countries or to other places, will be removed and taken to other places,” Mehra said, concluding that many country pavilions in mega events, such as Expo 2020, are built as temporary structures unless they planned on staying like the two aforementioned countries.

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