Dubai shrugs off global turmoil with new $95bn mega project


The announcement came one day after Dubai developers Nakheel said it planned to build a tower which will stand more than one kilometre tall (3,280 feet), beating the city’s own world record.

The mixed-use Jumeirah Gardens development will be “an integrated city within a city,” to be built over 12 years, Meraas Development said at the opening of Cityscape Dubai 2008, a four-day international real estate fair.

Dubai, part of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, already boasts the world’s tallest building, the yet to be completed Burj Dubai tower, which reached a height of 688 metres (2,257 feet) at the start of September and is still growing, according to developers Emaar.

It now boasts 160 storeys, the highest skyscraper in the world, Emaar said.

Jumeirah Gardens will stretch north of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare linking it to the oil-rich emirate and UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, 150 kilometres (95 miles) to the south.

Meraas Development said the project will comprise business, residential and leisure facilities linked by a transportation network and including some of the city’s biggest towers, and with a large canal running through the development.

Construction of the first phase of the project has already begun, and the first buildings are due for handover in the fourth quarter of 2011, the company said.

The announcement came at the opening of the Cityscape exhibition, an annual feature on the property calendar of Dubai, a regional business and tourism hub which is in the midst of a construction frenzy and aims to rival financial centres like London and New York.

Some 1,500 firms from 150 countries are taking part in the event.

Nakheel CEO Chris O’Donnell told reporters on the sidelines of Cityscape that the skyscraper project announced on Sunday “will be over one kilometre and take 10 years to build.”

The tower, part of the Nakheel Harbour and Tower project, is expected to cost 140 billion dirhams (38 billion dollars), O’Donnell said.

But Dubai has not been spared the turmoil on world markets.

Dubai Financial Market dropped 7.6 percent on Monday to its lowest level in more than 18 months. The market has lost around 14 percent in the past two days, pulled down by the real estate sector.

O’Donnell said Nakheel’s new project is likely to have a psychological effect on the real estate market but denied this was the reason behind the public launch.

“We’ve been working on the project for six years,” he said, adding that work on the foundations is already under way.

“The project is going to go through two or three economic cycles… when you’re running a business you can’t just stop at the middle of the downturn,” O’Donnell said.

“We believe in what we’re doing, (even though) it is an unfortunate time.”

Nakheel is behind some of Dubai’s most grandiose projects. It is building three palm tree-shaped artificial islands, as well as “The World” — a cluster of some 300 islands looking like a blurred vision of the planet’s nations — off Dubai’s coast.

Scores of other ambitious ventures are under way or in the pipeline, including Dubailand, a series of billion-dollars entertainment and leisure projects touted as the Middle East’s very own Orlando.


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