Waterfront Job Could Set New Global Standard

Tue February 15, 2005 - National Edition

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) In a city already synonymous with flashy developments, a multi-billion-dollar project announced in January may set a new precedent for construction projects across the globe.

The project, dubbed the Dubai Waterfront, is a conglomeration of canals and islands studded with luxury hotels and homes.

The development, larger than the island of Manhattan, will reconfigure the map of this tiny desert emirate by adding 500 mi. (850 km) of new waterfront, according to Nakheel, the government-held developer.

The Dubai Waterfront is expected to house 400,000 people and transform the last stretch of Dubai’s undeveloped Gulf seashore. Unique for Dubai, foreign investors are being offered a minority stake in one of the emirate’s signature mega-projects.

Nakheel has audacious designs for the site, split between land and sea. The company plans a new city center that will include one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, as well as a 45-mi. (75-km) canal cleaving the desert and a sweeping arc of manmade islands that spills far into the Gulf.

Construction crews will build 373 mi. (600 km) of new roads and dig out 230 mi. (370 km) of canals and waterways.

Nakheel said in a statement that it hopes to finish the first phase — including the skyscraper and artificial islands — in approximately five years.

Nakheel’s chief executive, Sultan bin Sulayem, told Dow Jones that he could not yet reveal the names of investors who had approached Nakheel nor give the estimated cost of the development until investment partners have been named.

If it is built according to plans, the Dubai Waterfront will consist of 170 sq. mi. (440 square km) of water and land developments, an area two-and-a-half times the size of Washington D.C.

Dubai, a backwater pearl-diving village until the late 1950s, has already been busy extending its 40-mi. (60-km) coastline by building a manmade archipelago covered in luxury homes, hotels and resorts.

The Palm Jumeirah, the first coastline project set to be complete next year, is a palm tree-shaped island group whose reclaimed land and buildings can already be seen rising above the water offshore.

Another of Dubai’s artificial archipelagos, The Palm Jebel Ali, will nearly be surrounded by the new islands from the Dubai Waterfront, which are supposed to extend several miles into the sea. Dubai’s partially finished islands are already visible from outer space.

“We only have 60 kilometers of beach in Dubai, so we want to extend the shore,” Dubai Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said, according to the Dow Jones news agency. “This is Dubai’s biggest project yet and the world’s largest waterfront development.”

Nakheel said that the project has been designed by “an international consortium” of the architects, planners and urban developers.

In 2002, Dubai’s shimmering developments began to exacerbate an already hot real estate market, when Sheik Mohammed issued a decree allowing foreigners to buy homes and apartments. Since then the crown prince has called for further developments in a city already awash in building cranes and construction.

This time, Sheik Mohammed announced the emirate would drop further restrictions on outside investment by allowing foreign developers to take a stake in the project. Nakheel will hold a majority share of 51 percent and offer 49 percent of the project to investors.

“For the first time investors can partner with Nakheel and realize gains from land sales,” said bin Sulayem, as quoted by Dow Jones.

Local real estate experts said the scale of the project will cost tens of billions of U.S. dollars.

For more information, visit www.thedubaiwaterfront.com.