Dubai tower developers hit flight path turbulence

Developers are being forced to cut floors off building projects as Civil Aviation clamps down

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By  Sean Cronin Published  June 17, 2006

The race to build super-tall skyscrapers in Dubai is beginning to interfere with the flight paths of planes landing at the airport. And developers are being forced to slash the height of proposed buildings — costing them millions of dollars in lost sales and rental income. Construction Week has learned that a proposed development of three towers topping 75-storeys on Sheikh Zayed Road has been cut back to a single tower of just 50-storeys. Developer Abdul Salam Mohammad Rafi planned to construct three towers at a cost of US $250 million (AED900 million) — comprised of an office and residential tower of 75 floors each and a hotel of 60 floors. But now the developer has been forced to ditch the original plans, losing 60-storeys of lettable space, after the Department of Civil Aviation found that the towers could interfere with planes taking off from Dubai International Airport. Abdul Salam Mohammad Rafi is the developer behind Dubai’s Chelsea Tower, and the Chelsea Group is also a prospective tenant of the new development. Director Karim Kassam, said: “We were initially told about a development with a built-up area of between 701,000m2 and 762,000m2 projected across three towers that ranged in height from 60 to 75-storeys. “Then it became one tower of 50 floors, which I think came out of the blue. We have yet to finalise anything and now this is another factor that has come into play.” Peyman Mohajer, regional director, Whitby & Bird, structural engineer on the project, confirmed that the development had now been revised to a single 50-storey structure. The Department of Civil Aviation is also dealing with several other proposed tower developments that may yet have to be scaled down because of nearby flight paths. An insider said: “Between Trade Centre Interchange and Defense Interchange, the height restrictions can change quickly and frequently because of where it is in relation to the airport. There are ongoing issues with various owners with requirements to build taller than we will allow.” Developments around Dubai Marina may also need to be scaled back to take into account the flight paths in and out of the new Dubai World Central airport at Jebel Ali. In the past, planning has been granted by Dubai Municipality in certain locations on a ‘building unlimited’ basis — meaning that there are no height restrictions for developers. Development land in such areas is worth more than in others, where building height is restricted. The Department of Civil Aviation is now reviewing several proposed tower developments in the line of take-off and landing runways. Property experts say any significant reduction in the height of a tower project will have a major impact on the viability of the development — particularly in Dubai, which has been hit by a huge increase in land and construction costs.

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