Monday, October 6, 2008

Nakheel aims for the sky

If the sky’s the limit, Nakheel is coming pretty close. Yesterday it announced plans to build a skyscraper more than a kilometre high, hundreds of metres more than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which is just 10 minutes down the road.

The structure, which has been on the drawing board for more than three years, is to be the centrepiece of the Nakheel Harbour and Tower development. It will be built near the Ibn Battuta Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Industry insiders have said that the tower, nicknamed Tall Tower, could reach 1.4 kilometres. That would make it almost double the projected 800 metres of Burj Dubai, and five times higher than the Burj Al Arab, the emirate’s iconic sail-shaped, seven-star hotel.

Nakheel, the Dubai Government’s property developer, declined to say how much the tower would cost or the overall value of the development. Designed by the Australian architects Woods Bagot, it is to include 40 other towers, between 20 and 90 floors each, a canal system and harbour.

“It will truly be a magnificent engineering feat,” said Chris O’Donnell, the chief executive of Nakheel.

Work on the tower’s foundations is already under way and is expected to take three years.

Nakheel will finance the development by pre-selling apartments and the 270 hectares of land surrounding the project, as well as bank loans, it said.
Despite the global credit crunch and a slowdown in financing for construction projects, Mr O’Donnell said Tall Tower would proceed because it was being developed over a decade.

“What’s happening globally is just a normal economic cycle,” he said. “There might be a slowdown but there definitely won’t be a crash as the fundamentals of the Middle East market are just too strong. A building project of this type was always going to take 10 years, and we will monitor the economic climate over that period when determining funding for the project.”

Mr O’Donnell added that the global economic slowdown would result in a more sophisticated investor. “Dubai has matured rapidly and property buyers are becoming increasingly discerning,” he said. “They will choose to buy property that is by the water, close to transport hubs or within an iconic project. In these times there will also be a flight to quality.”

Dubai’s property sector already has a number of world records to its name. The Burj Dubai, which is just under a year away from completion, set the record as the world’s tallest free-standing structure on Sept 12 last year when it surpassed the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. Seven months later, it took over the KVLY-TV mast in North Dakota to become the tallest man-made structure on earth, while only three weeks ago it was announced that the Burj’s height was more than 688 metres, making it the tallest man-made structure ever built. The Burj will also feature the world’s fastest lift, rising and descending at 18 metres a second. Some 56 lifts will carry roughly 40 people at a time.

Palm Deira, which is also being developed by Nakheel, is destined to be the largest man-made island in the world, five times bigger than The Palm Jebel Ali and more than seven times bigger than the almost-finished Palm Jumeirah. Nakheel has said it will be half the size of Paris when completed.

Standing at the foot of the Burj Dubai in the emirate’s new downtown district is the Dubai Mall, which will surpass all its rivals to become the largest mall – and set a number of other records – when it opens on Oct 30. Providing 1.12 million square metres of floor space, the building will feature 10 to 15 smaller malls with 1,200 shops. The mall will also have the world’s largest aquarium and largest gold souk, with more than 200 retailers, a 79,000sq/m fashion island with 70 outlets dedicated to high-end clothing, a Les Galeries Lafayette department store – the first outside Europe – and an Olympic-sized ice skating rink.

But Nakheel could be outshone this week at Cityscape if Meraas Investment Company, the private equity firm of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announces the Dubai City Tower. That structure is rumoured to be 2.41km high, to be built in an area called “Vertical City”.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, kilometre-high towers are planned in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s City of Silk development.

No comments: