Construction Week Newsletter 5th February 2005

There is no question that Dubai has become a city of tall buildings. The rest of the world will soon wake up to what we in Dubai have known for over a year now: the Burj Dubai will dwarf New York’s Freedom Tower, and when finished will be the world’s tallest building by what seems like a country mile.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  February 5, 2005

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

Dubai: a city of tall buildings and tall tales?

There is no question that Dubai has become a city of tall buildings. The rest of the world will soon wake up to what we in Dubai have known for over a year now: the Burj Dubai will dwarf New York’s Freedom Tower, and when finished will be the world’s tallest building by what seems like a country mile. In fact, the only plausible challenger to the Burj Dubai’s record-breaking status comes from other developers in Dubai seeking to steal a march on Emaar’s most high profile development. The last couple of months have witnessed the launch of even more mega projects in Dubai. According to its latest advertising, Business Bay — launched in December last year — will bring over 100 high rise structures to the Dubai skyline; and according to local newspaper reports, Airport City in Jebel Ali will have a staggering 850 towers. Taken together these two developments will bring another 1000 high-rise structures to Dubai. The fact that this sentence will probably fail to surprise or even shock most readers just goes to show that the people of Dubai have become anaesthetised to grand scale developments. We have seen the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest shopping mall, the world’s largest reclaimed island and developments of over 40 tower blocks, so it’s only an incremental leap when you start discussing a development with 850 towers. The question that begs answering is does Dubai really need another 1000 high-rise buildings? According to www.emporis.com — a web-based authority on skyscrapers — Dubai currently has 130 completed high-rise buildings and another 174 under construction. In other words, the projects currently under construction will more than double the number of high-rise buildings in Dubai in the next couple of years. It is fair to say that office space in Dubai is limited to say the least and extra capacity is needed; these projects will no doubt bring some respite to the problems that many companies currently face. However not all these buildings are office buildings. Massive multi-tower residential developments like Jumeirah Beach Residences, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers will account for somewhere in the region of half of these structures. Although it is well reported that apartments sold like proverbial hot cakes last year, I am sure many readers (such as myself) questioned whether these developments would be fully occupied once they are built, as rumours around town suggested that some of the already complete residential towers were far from 100% occupied when they opened. On the other hand, residential property is almost as hard to find as office space so there is definitely the demand out there. If doubts remain about whether Dubai really needs the 174 towers that are under construction, what about the 1000 towers that were recently announced? Are there enough businesses out there looking for space and enough people looking for housing to fill them all? The stock answer given by many old hands around town is: “That is what they said about the Burj Al Arab, and look how successful that has been.” An excellent point, yet somewhat out of context. The first time I heard this argument was when discussing the feasibility of the Burj Dubai. To be fair I was won over. Like the Burj Al Arab put Dubai on the map as a tourist destination, the Burj Dubai has put — and will continue to put — Dubai on the map when it comes to modern high-rise buildings. Even if these projects are not entirely profitable the good they do for the image of Dubai more than compensates for the construction costs. Does the same argument apply to 1000 towers? It is impossible for each of these towers to achieve the iconic status that the Burj Al Arab and Burj Dubai enjoy, so they have to be economically viable and find tenants, because if they do not, they may not be viable at all.||**||

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