Bahrain’s US $750 million Al Areen put on fast track

Erga Group to lead consultants’ consortium to develop master plan and urban planning

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By  Eudore Chand Published  January 29, 2005

The US $750 million Al Areen Desert Spa & Resort project in Bahrain has been put on a fast track for development in line with Bahrain’s drive to promote family and health tourism in the kingdom. The project has got underway with the appointment of a consortium of development partners led by Lebanon-based Erga Group. The consortium will be responsible for the master planning and urban design of the project. At a briefing in Manama, senior officials of the Al Areen Desert Spa & Resort Holding Company said that several other key development and investment related announcements will be made in the next few months. Encompassing an area of 2 million m², Al Areen is located in the southern part of the kingdom on a secluded hilltop rising from the desert. The aim is to create an authentic desert experience offering a spa resort, themed residential communities, hotels, a water park and commercial and entertainment facilities. “In keeping with the nature of the project, we were looking at associating with like-minded entities that would be able to transform our vision into a functioning reality,” said Ahmed bin Ali, Al Areen chairman. “We believe that the Erga Group, with its solid background in the realisation of several prestigious developments in the region and Europe, will be able to effectively lead this consortium of development partners for this project.” The Erga Group and its international partners Borja + A4 (Chili), Ian Hogan (UK) and Francois Gauthier (France), will take care of the entire Al Areen project, from the initial concept, master planning and feasibility study, to schematic and detailed designs, tendering, site supervision as well as post contract problem solving. Esam Janahi, Al Areen vice chairman, said: “Al Areen is now entering a critical phase of its implementation. We are confident that this partnership will result in an unparalleled development that will set new standards for excellence not only in Bahrain but also within the region.” Janahi, who is also chairman of Gulf Finance House, says that Al Areen represents a strategic diversification for GFH and is an important constituent of its portfolio of projects in Bahrain and the region. “Since its formal launch in January last year, the project has evoked considerable response from potential investors and development partners. In the coming months, we will make several other announcements about the project which will further galvanise its development, which is on track to be fully completed by 2008.” The project was launched in January 2004, and in April, the Bahrain Ministry of Finance & National Economy, and GFH announced the setting up of a holding company for the project with an issued capital of over US $128 million (BD 48.4 million). The Al Areen project, which is a 25-minute drive from Manama city centre and a 35-minute drive from Bahrain airport, comprises four major components: a spa resort; themed hotels; residential, commercial and entertainment facilities; and a water park. It will be located within the Al Areen Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to the Bahrain International Circuit. The spa resort will be developed on an area of 85 000 m² at a cost of $50 million. Residential communities will encompass various internationally themed neighbourhoods consisting of residential villas and low rise apartment buildings distributed over different clusters.

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