Casablanca - ©Antony Stanley,

Restructuring Avenue Royale: an urban integrated project

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Main actors

Local Government, Community / Citizen Group, other

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

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Ongoing since 1993/01

The project illustrates how conflicts between planner's aims and resident's views can be mitigated by participation processes

The Avenue Royale comprises a huge project to restructure Casablanca between the urban seafront and the city centre. The project started in 1993 and has not yet been finished. A huge boulevard is planned to connect the Hassan II Mosque with United Nations Square. This project of Avenue Royale will provide housing for around 12,000 families and improve living conditions of Avenue Royale residents, who previously lived in crumbling old congested houses.

SONADAC (Société nationale de développement et d'aménagement communal), a technical and professional agency in the service of local authorities for communal development and planning, administers the project. Due to the huge importance of this project and the high costs, it is divided into stages and, sub-projects. In this context, 530 families were provided with homes as a first part of the action in 1995. SONADAC planned the NASSIM project to house 1800 families.

Situated in the south-west, adjoining the neighbourhoods of Lissasfa and Sidi Maârouf, over an area of 316 hectares, this project now comprises 5,300 dwellings (in 2012: 2,700 in the first phase and 2,600 in the second phase), currently 16,000 social housing units and 9,000 other housing units are planned.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Reduce inequality within and among countries
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Casablanca, Morocco

Size and population development
3,728,824 (Great Casablanca - source: city of Casablanca)

Main functions
economic capital of Morocco, port town

Main industries / business
phosphate, textiles, leather, food, tourism

Political structure
The "wilaya" (for the Great Casablanca), the regional Council, the Council of the urban commune of Casablanca and the prefectural Council

Administrative structure
8 prefectures, divided into 16 arrondissements and 1 municipality.

Most of the families living in Royale Avenue are tenants with low or limited income. In the majority of cases, families of five people or more live together in a floor space of 20 square metres. The NASSIM project area is situated on private land used formerly for agriculture and lacking completely in infrastructure. It housed about 400 families living in unstructured accommodation.

Embedded in the overall project to rebuild and redesign Casablanca city, NASSIM aims to house 12,000 families. For this huge project with its social importance and financial costs several strategies have been set up. First, Avenue Royale and side streets will be restructured which enhancing the inner-city urban fabric.  Then, a new city quarter with urban components economic, and social activities will be planned and built. Differing social and urban elements will be combined to allocate public transport, equipment, and public services. It is also necessary to prepare a financial plan to assist in resource requirements, for example, preparing field studies for other similar projects in order to generate revenue.

Commissioning urban and socio-economic studies is also advisable in order to find out exact characteristics of inhabitants. Considering the kind of housing and the legal situation of the development is also a step in progress. A progressive method of acquiring land in harmony with the development of the project will be implemented.

The Avenue Royale project was launched in 1993, two years later, in July 1995, 530 families were housed in the first model project. Then, in September 1996, the NASSIM project began. After two further years, in July 1998, dwellings for 1,800 families were established.

The initial situation had already had to face some obstacles which were to be solved by a special committee and with the device of dividing the whole project into various phases. The number of residents increased between 1989 and 1996, so the target group was larger than first expected.

Representatives of all administrative bodies and other concerned advisors studied each case separately. In addition, some families had requested to take part in the first phase of the project even if they were not directly concerned and had to be relocated. Proof of ownership was also problematic due to absence of documentation. Some administrative documents were therefore provided as back-up, i.e. legal testimony certifying use of dwellings for a long time without this being contested. Rent receipts and city tax receipts were also commonly used.

A huge obstacle was also the approach of relocating families generally. Families had to buy apartments at cost price, which is difficult for persons with low income. The agency had to absorb two-thirds of overall costs whilst families paid preferential rates for a long term bank loan.

However, integrating new inhabitants in the new environment was difficult; often residents were relocated from the old town quarter (medina) to Nassim in the suburbs. So a research committee from Hassan II University was incorporated to investigate and determine accurately inhabitants’ social needs in all fields, relating to living in the dwellings, or in the district, or relating to necessary facilities, as well as rational neighbourhood management.  Some basic necessities had not been envisaged in the project beforehand, such as education, health, security, sport and green spaces. This burdened SONADAC with financial liabilities which are not covered by provisions.

In December 1999, the project continued and built 2,700 dwellings.

The project has not yet been completed, and SONADAC is seriously behind the time schedule. The longer the project lasts, the higher the costs. Additionally, the problem of not owning the entire land where the project is planned has also not been solved (as of December 2012).

Assets from the local authorities, banking institutions and a contribution in the form of land from the government, an area in the scope of the Ministry of Finance, created SONADAC agency.

At the outset of the first phase of the NASSIM project, when it came to acquiring the land, SONADAC had initially been self-sufficient. SONADAC resorted to banking institutions and raised loans in order to realise infrastructure, water supply system and sewerage, lighting, and telephone lines. Despite financial constraints they built housing and public services as well.

Loans also served to compensate people whose properties were affected due to Avenue Royale restructuring. The agency at the same time redeemed the cost of housing allocated to residents. Additionally SONADAC acquired property and sold it to generate more revenue.

The CDG deposit and management fund (Caisse de depot et des gestions) provided part of the credit.

The financial element of the project aims at valorising land acquired and preparing a part of NASSIM housing for sale to private individuals which generate more resources for the project.

One of the project concerns has been to acquire the necessary funds for Avenue Royale at restricted and convenient terms. 


Despite the difficulties the agency faced in setting up infrastructure and public amenities in the relocation (regeneration) area, within 18 months the first dwellings were given to beneficiaries. However, this was more than 15 years ago. The progress, which created 2,700 apartments, lasted just 3 years and was finished in 1999.

The plan was then, for administrative and legal reasons, to relocate the remaining families throughout the summer of 2000, which would have allowed the first part of Avenue Royale to be released. This first part was however only finished in 2002. Since then the project has been facing one problem after another, causing again the time schedule to be delayed.

The Avenue Royale project and in particular the NASSIM project have encountered major timeframe problems. Because of financial shortages and problems with land the timeframe cannot be maintained.

Relocating residents defined in 2008 has decelerated. There are still 8,800 inhabitants out of the original 10,000 who have to be relocated from the medina to Nassim which is now planned to be finished in 2018. In 2009, shortage of dwellings caused just a few families to be relocated.

SONADAC owns just the half the land, the other half is fragmented in small plots in private ownership. Acquisition is a major problem which the agency tries to solve using expropriation methods.

The project has not ended yet and so lessons learned are difficult to specify.

The project is nevertheless transferable. A very similar project has started in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Even on the national level the project serves as a model, along with SONADAC as a leading tool. In the field of urban and city planning the agency also serves as a consulting body for several bodies acting in other locations. Several local authorities have called upon SONADAC support, either for consultancy or direct input on redevelopment areas located in their territories.

This operation has also managed to improve strategies and come up with new solutions to several administrative, financial, and technical entities acting in the field of renewing urban fabric and improving inhabitants’ qualities of life.

SONADAC has become a stakeholder which is taken seriously, even if it only more or less gained public confidence. Banking institutions take the agency seriously too. This is a change from what took place in the past, when weaknesses in terms of acquiring legally non-settled land used to lead to unpleasant surprises for SONADAC clients.

- City of Casablanca: (English)
- Major Urban Projects and the People Affected: The Case of Casablanca's Avenue Royale, Berry-Chikhaoui, Isabelle, Built Environment, Volume 36, Number 2, 4 July 2010, pp. 216-229(14) (English) (see the link below)
- Avenue Royale, rêve ou réalité? Laïla Triki, in La vie éco, 2005-02-11 (french) (see the link below)

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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