Palm project

Although it was formally announced back in 2003, IFA’s resort on the Palm, Jumeirah still shows no sign of beginning construction just yet. Construction Week spoke to the developers to find out the cause of the delay.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  January 29, 2005

Palm project|~|57 Project Body.jpg|~||~|IFA’s Palm, Jumeirah development covers a sizeable area of Palm, Jumeirah. Overall, the Kuwaiti-based investment company’s resort will offer just over 1200 rooms by the beach, 450 apartments and 60 boutique shops. This includes the twin-tower Palm Residence, a beachfront enclave of 246 super-luxury shoreline apartments and the five-star, 300-room Palm Hotel & Resort. The development itself consists of four main components: a hotel, a timeshare vacation club, freehold apartments and a shopping mall. The centrepiece of the development facing the beach will be the five-star hotel that will be managed by Canadian-based hotel operator Fairmont. Flanking the hotel on either side will be a number of timeshare properties, together with 448 luxury freehold apartments. These properties will also be managed by Fairmont. At the rear, alongside the internal canal running through the trunk of The Palm, will be the Souq Palm. Hemmed in between the highway and canal, the souq will be linear in shape and will make use of its canal frontage with a promenade lined with shops, cafés and restaurants. In terms of style IFA has opted for what they call ‘a Mediterranean with Gulf flavour’ design, with light stone exteriors, domed roofs and open courtyard-like areas. The resort will be low rise and surrounded by exotic gardens set back from the beachfront. Although the project was formally announced in late 2003, the basic design has not changed very much. The Golden Mile remains essentially the same but has been refined as the designs became more advanced. One thing that has changed is the number of apartment units on offer, which has increased from 780 to 860; this change was the result of an increased number of penthouses and town houses. The original designs only incorporated two penthouse units per apartment block to accommodate the chillers on the roof. However, since these original designs were drawn, Nakheel has elected to provide a district cooling system on the Palm which left more space for penthouse units on the upper floors of the apartment buildings. Another design change was made in the commercial area, where retail outlets facing onto the road at the back of the development were replaced with town houses to give some extra scale to the development. As far as the construction of the project is concerned, US-based HHCP Design International completed the concept design some time ago and the actual construction drawings are now being prepared by the architects and consultants on site. Although construction work was expected to start last year, activity has so far has been limited. “They haven't done very much on site yet. We were planning to start construction work earlier, but we had to adjust our schedule based on the progress of the civil and infrastructure works on the Palm,” says George Khoury, senior vice president design and development, IFA Hotels & Resorts. “We didn't want to be too far ahead of the services. You can’t have a hotel without the necessary services, and heavy trucks passing by on the way to construction site.” Readers in Dubai will recall that settlement was rumoured to be a significant problem on the Palm in late 2003 and early 2004, although this did not really affect IFA’s development. “A lot of it is hearsay, but there is no question that the way the island was filled and the speed with which it was done means the bearing value is poor, and eventually you may have some settlement. Most people are doing vibro-compaction to reduce the risks. I am not too concerned about this because all the IFA buildings will sit on piles, so the only thing that may move is the road system.” This year should see the start of work on site. “The piling works will be the first contract to be awarded and work is expected to start in June this year,” says Khoury. “The rest of the works will be awarded as lump sum contracts for the Golden Mile, apartments and hotel, with an additional package for the interior fit out of the hotel,” he adds. Given the development location, access to the site should be relatively easy, although experience on other nearby developments has shown that logistics is a major issue on the island. Although the design of the Palm is well suited to the region and gives the development a clear identity, it is not well suited to getting large volumes of materials and equipment onto construction sites. The entrance onto the Palm next to the Nakheel Sales Centre is effectively a bottle-neck for vehicles delivering materials on site; more beach area has been reclaimed on the other side of the trunk to create temporary haul roads to improve access. Another temporary haul road has been created by delaying the excavation of the trunk’s canal. The walls of the waterway will be completed, but the final excavation will be postponed. Despite these access issues the development’s central location is also likely to be of benefit to operators once the project is complete, as tourists will also be able to access the resort from the main highway. “Unfortunately the traffic pattern that has been created for the island means that you have to travel up to the top of the trunk and make a U-turn before you reach the IFA development,” says Khoury. “The deep canal excavations and the high bridges have created a lot of traffic problems,” he adds. Erosion is a problem that the resort is likely to face once it is completed. Like any coastline, the beaches on the Palm are bound to experience some degree of erosion or deposition; currents in the area mean that the left hand side of the trunk tends to be eroded. “Erosion will be a major problem and the beaches will have to be replenished continuously. We expect our side of the beach to be eroded all the time, but Nakheel has guaranteed us that they will be responsible for maintaining it,” explains Khoury. ||**||

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