Qatar’s Pearl ready to shine

The Pearl-Qatar is one of Qatar’s largest construction projects to date. Construction Week visits the site to find out how the project is progressing and what to expect in the future.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  November 5, 2004

Qatar’s Pearl ready to shine|~|46 Project Body.jpg|~||~|The idea for the Pearl-Qatar first came about some five or six years ago. Since then it has developed into a US $2.5 billion island that will provide 400 ha of reclaimed land and and over 40 km of new coastline. The development is Qatar’s first international real estate venture, the largest real estate development in the country and the first to offer freehold and residential rights to international investors. “These are the first properties within the Arabian Gulf to be offered with true freehold status as laid down in Article 3 of decree number 17 of 2004, issued by the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani on 6th June of this year,” said Omar Al Fardan, director, United Development Company (UDC). “This decree, which is backed by cabinet approval and is subject to a draft protocol between UDC and the Government of Qatar, regulates the ownership of real estate and residential units by non-Qataris,” he adds. The Pearl-Qatar’s name and location, on a former pearl diving site, is believed to have once been an island; hence the “an island rediscovered” slogan. The Pearl-Qatar will eventually house 30 000 residents in an up-scale, multi-cultural residential community which will be a secure and exclusive island retreat bringing the ambience and lifestyle of the Mediterranean to the heart of Arabia. The first phase of the marina is due for completion in late 2006 when the first investors are due to take up residency on the Riviera-style island. The island is being built 350 m offshore the West Bay Lagoon area of the country’s capital, Doha. Whilst offering an exclusive retreat, the island will also be closely integrated with, and have easy access to, the capital’s thriving community and burgeoning central business district. Dredging work for The Pearl-Qatar is currently underway; the project is due for total completion in 2009. The development is being built and promoted by United Development Company (UDC), Qatar’s largest private sector shareholding company. UDC is the country’s largest private sector shareholding company with a mission to identify and invest in long-term projects that contribute to Qatar’s growth and provide good shareholder value. The company was established in 1999, with an authorised share capital of US $140 million, and was listed on the Doha Securities Market in June 2003. UDC’s target areas of interest include: infrastructure, energy-intensive industries, hydrocarbons downstream, real estate, construction and environment-related businesses. UDC has also established the Qatar Dredging Company – a joint venture with the State of Qatar and Belgium’s Dredging International – and formed Qatar Cool, a district cooling company, in association with Tabreed of the United Arab Emirates. UDC is also a partner in Al-Seif Company Ltd – a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum to develop a plant to produce linear alkyl benzene (LAB), which is the main feedstock for detergent manufacture. The plant will have a production capacity of 100 000 tons a year. UDC has also invested in the Al Khaleej Formaldehyde Company. Callison provided the master planning and conceptual design services, which established the overall concept. The firm is currently providing design and construction services for the residential towers comprised of 3116 fashionable apartments with sweeping sea views that overlook 410 imaginative town houses and 55 000 m2 of high-end retail with parking structures. These features are all contained in a Riviera-like boardwalk setting around a 400-boat slip marina – one of four planned for The Pearl-Qatar. For the design of the island Callison is co-ordinating with local architectural firm KEO International. “The Pearl-Qatar is a unique project with a Riviera-style theme which will position it as truly world-class and differentiate it from other developments within the region and around the world,” said Charles Krimmert, Callison’s Project Manager for The Pearl-Qatar. “We are confident that the architectural experience will position The Pearl-Qatar to capitalise on the country’s rich maritime and pearling history while leveraging the appeal of Qatar as the Arab world’s richest per-capita nation and one of the region’s most secure and relaxing living environments,” he adds. The design contract for the first of the 43 La Plage Villas has been awarded to KEO international in association with award-winning US architects RNL International and design work is now underway. “In all, six distinct villa styles will be produced,” explained Brian Grimawade of KEO international. “The design will capture the very essence of true island life,” he adds. At present the reclamation of the island is currently a month ahead of schedule and piling for the first seven of the multi-storey Porto Arabia towers is set to commence in mid November. “We are well on target to ensuring that these towers, which will house the first freehold properties in Qatar ever to be offered for sale to international investors, will be ready for residency on schedule late 2006/early 2007,” said Nick Bashkiroff, development director, The Pearl-Qatar. For the reclamation work the project is split into four phases that will eventually form one big island along with three smaller islands that sit within the harbours. Smaller individual islands attached to the ‘tail’ of the development will be made available for individual palaces. The first phase is currently well advanced and joins the causeway that will connect the island to the mainland and then move around to form the crescent-shaped harbour of Porto Arabia. The shape of the island is quite organic because the water in the area is quite shallow, unlike other islands in the region that have been reclaimed from depths of up to 15 m. Fugro Middle East began testing the area prior to the start of reclamation work last April and has now begun drilling land and marine bores on the Porto Arabia sites, which will house multi-storey residential towers that flank the main harbour. “Laboratory testing of soil and rock samples will determine the parameters for foundation design and the construction work can then commence,” said Nick Willet, Deputy Manager, Fugro Middle East. “We anticipate the work taking four months to complete and it will take place in tandem with reclamation operations,” he added. The piling contract is also out at the moment and they are expected back in the next couple of weeks. “It will take a couple of weeks for us to review the tenders and we should start piling on the first plots in the beginning of December, depending on how quickly the tenders are organised,” says Bashkiroff. For the infrastructure, Parsons will complete the design work this month before it goes out to tender as one package for the entire island. Parsons was awarded the design contract after an international tender that attracted bidders from the Middle East, Europe and the USA. “This is an excellent win for Parsons which is establishing a portfolio of infrastructure clients around the Middle East covering some of the region’s most ambitious and innovative projects,” said Lewis Case, Parsons vice president and manager of Middle East Operations. Parsons also produced an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of The Pearl Qatar, which has been submitted to The Supreme Council For The Environment & Natural Resources in Qatar. The tender for the project management is currently under review and an announcement is expected shortly. The developers are now busy marketing the first seven building plots and towers around Porto Arabia and the first three towers basically reserved and that will be converted into sales shortly. Each tower is 25 storeys and offers 150 residential units. “Most will have sweeping views of what will be a regional yachting hub with a café style culture reminiscent of the best of the Mediterranean,” said Bashkiroff. In total some 21 towers will surround Porto Arabia with a retail promenade at grade level that will provide 60 000 m2 of space. In order to maintain standards, UDC will operate the development as a single entity. Design guidelines have also been developed for each of the different districts along with completion parameters for each plot so that the project is synchronised properly and investors do not hold onto valuable pieces of land without building on them.||**||

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