GN Focus | UAE National Day

Build it and they’ll come

The UAE’s construction sector is back on track with iconic developments announced to change the face of the country

  • By M. Sen | Special to GN Focus
  • Published: 00:00 December 2, 2012
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archives/WAM
  • An artist's rendition of the Mohammad Bin Rashid City being developed in Dubai. The project will feature the largest shopping mall in the world and a park 30 per cent bigger than London's Hyde Park

Projects worth $1.9 trillion (Dh6.97 trillion) are currently under construction in the UAE, according to data released by The Big 5, the region’s largest construction trade fair. Although the sector is seeing an incipient revival, the announcement of a new city in Dubai is being hailed as a sign that the economy is back on track.

In the first quarter of the year, the Abu Dhabi and Dubai governments unveiled their revised construction programme, putting a number of formerly stalled projects at the top of their investment agenda.

The industry witnessed construction contract awards to the tune of $28.84 million in 2011, which is expected to increase to $32.84 million in 2012 and $37.98 in 2013, according to Ventures Middle East.

GN Focus takes a look at some of the biggest real estate projects across the country.

Mohammad Bin Rashid City

The biggest new announcement is a tourism and retail development on the outskirts of Dubai’s Downtown area. To be located between Emirates Road and Shaikh Zayed Road, Mohammad Bin Rashid City will include the Mall of the World, the largest shopping mall in the world; a park 30 per cent bigger than Hyde Park in London as part of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Gardens Project; a family entertainment centre to be developed with Universal Studios; a district of art galleries; an area for entrepreneurs; and more than 100 hotels. It is to be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties .

Announcing the project, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, did not reveal the cost or when it is expected to be completed, but his description indicated investment would total many billions of dollars, Reuters reported.

He said: “The current facilities available in Dubai need to be scaled up in line with the future ambitions for the city. Therefore we have to start work immediately on the third phase of development that is aligned to our vision until 2030 and boost the UAE economy to enable it to enter a new era in which it will become the capital of entrepreneurship, arts, culture, and family tourism for more than two billion people.”

Abu Dhabi Capital District

Along with Khalifa City and the Corniche Beach Development, Abu Dhabi Capital District is a key initiative of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. The new city will become the symbolic and administrative centre for government, education and information-based institutions in the UAE. It is set to be the seat of government and will accommodate federal ministries and foreign embassies.

The new capital will feature transport options such as trains and trams and shaded walkways to encourage pedestrians, thus reducing the impact of cars. It is to serve as a second downtown for Abu Dhabi, with the capacity to house 370,000 residents.

The Heart of Sharjah

Work has begun on the Heart of Sharjah, a five-phase, 15-year historical preservation and restoration project that aims to revitalise the heritage area at the centre of the emirate. Managed by Shurooq, the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, the project is on track to meet its 2015 deadline for completion of its first phase. It aims to reflect what Sharjah was like more than half a century ago.

Once complete in 2025, it will feature diverse commercial, cultural and residential projects, including a boutique hotel, restaurants, retail shops, art galleries, traditional and contemporary markets, archaeological sites, museums, play areas and offices.

Saadiyat Island

Construction on the region’s biggest cultural development is expected to begin in January, when work on the first international branch of the Louvre Museum begins. The name of the contracting firm is to be announced this month and completion is expected at the end of 2015.

Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi will house the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions, including the Zayed National Museum, to be completed by 2016, and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, expected by 2017.

Several hotels have already opened on the natural island and new residential units are being delivered continuously.

Business Bay Canal

About one and a half billion dirhams are being spent on extending the Business Bay Canal from the Dubai Creek across the arterial Shaikh Zayed Road and through a major park to the Arabian Gulf. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority is expected to begin work in the first quarter of 2013 and the project should be completed two years later.

About 12.8 kilometres long, the canal will be between 80 and 100 metres wide to promote marine and tourist mass transit. Bridges up to 8.5 metres high will be constructed over the canal on the key roads intersecting it. Some 10 kilometres of the canal extension work have already been completed.

The canal will feature facilities for tourists and sports enthusiasts alike. It will have tracks for jogging and cycling, as well as public relaxation areas. It is expected that a host of new hotels, restaurants and canal-view residences will be constructed on either side.

Real Madrid Resort Island

The Spanish football club earlier this year announced it is planning a $1-billion island resort off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah. The 430,000-square-metre facility will contain luxury hotels, villas and an amusement park and will feature a 10,000-seat football stadium open on one side to a view of the sea.

It is expected to be completed by January 2015.

Etihad Rail

A 1,200-kilometre railway being built to link the principal centres of population and industry of the UAE, as well as linking to the rest of the GCC, Etihad Rail’s network will enable the rapid transport of passengers and freight. Once complete, it will redefine logistics and transport in the region, providing a safe, efficient and sustainable network that links all the corners of the UAE, and eventually the UAE to the wider GCC.

Estimated at Dh40 billion, the railway will connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east once complete in 2018.

In October, Etihad Rail awarded the Dh3.3 billion civil and track works contract for the first stage of the railway network that will link the Western Region cities of Habshan and Ruwais by 2013 and then Shah and Habshan by 2014, according to WAM.

Phase 2 involves the construction of the remainder of the Abu Dhabi Emirate Network and a connection to Dubai, covering areas such as Mussaffah and the Khalifa and Jebel Ali ports. The final phase will cover the rest of the network in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

Taj Arabia

One of the most eye-catching and controversial project announcements in recent times is the $1-billion Taj Arabia complex, a replica of India’s Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. The project is part of the 3.7-million-square-metre Falconcity of Wonders, and is expected to be completed by late 2014. A five-star hotel property with 300 rooms flanked by seven mixed-use buildings, including 200 serviced apartments, it is being positioned as a wedding destination. However, the project has already drawn the ire of Indian heritage and tourism leaders.

Falconcity of Wonders will feature several recreated icons of architecture from around the world such as the Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction of the second part of phase one is now in full swing.

GN Focus