Aldar gears up for $16 million spend

The construction focus of the UAE is moving inexorably westwards, and to ram home the point Aldar took journalists on a whistle-stop tour of the company’s projects that are now moving off the drawing board and into reality.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  May 27, 2006

|~|123proj200.gif|~|National Marine Dredging Company recently started work on the reclamation of 11 offshore islands that will form part of the Al Gurm Resort, after plans for the project were approved by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.|~|Aldar Properties is spearheading the emergence of Abu Dhabi as the next construction hot spot in the region. Last month the real estate company announced plans for no fewer than 32 new hotels to be built in the nation’s capital within the next three to seven years. This is set to increase Abu Dhabi’s annual room offering by over 2.2 million — almost doubling its current capacity. From small boutique hotels through to business hotels and major international resorts, more bed space is needed to cater for Abu Dhabi’s rapidly increasing visitors. These hotels will complement the US $5.7 billion (AED21 billion) international airport expansion currently underway in Abu Dhabi, which is being designed to handle around 20 million passengers a year when completed. “Having a national airline [Etihad] in Abu Dhabi means more people coming from more destinations,” says Ousama Ghannoum, Aldar’s marketing and communications director. “We’re also seeing a massive demand for office space in the city.” In a bid to keep up with the demands placed on Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure, Aldar has embarked on an ambitious building programme that spans residential and commercial offerings. Here is a round-up of some of its current projects: Al Raha Gardens This is the first development to be offered to UAE nationals in Abu Dhabi on an ownership basis. Built on 665,000m2 of land, the $436 million project will feature a total of 1,388 villas as well as two schools, a polo hotel, polo ground, equestrian facilities and retail offerings. Al Raha Gardens development is split into three phases. Local contractor Al Jaber won the $92 million phase one construction contract in September 2005 and currently has 5,000 workers on site. Phase one incorporates 281 villas and townhouses and is scheduled for handover by March 2007. Al Jaber’s contract includes all on-site construction as well as infrastructure buildings, internal roads and utility services. The second phase of Al Raha Gardens incorporates 470 villas. Piling work began in March this year, with the overall second phase of construction due for handover in August 2007. Phase three is due for completion in October 2008. Al Raha Gardens is located next to Aldar’s new city development, Al Raha Beach. A road will eventually link the two projects. Al Raha Beach Located on the beach side of the main highway leading into Abu Dhabi from Dubai, Aldar’s new city development will stretch over approximately 5.2 million m2 along the Khor Al Raha waterway. This $15 billion mixed-use mega project features eight precincts comprising hotels, waterfront apartments, retail and commercial facilities and marinas. When completed, the 8.5km-long site will accommodate around 120,000 residents and attract a projected daytime population of over 200,000. Handover of the project is phased over a 10-year period. Around 31km of navigable canals will be created within the development so the majority of residents will have water views. But before construction work can begin over 40 million m3 of material must be reclaimed from the waterway. This will create an average of 400m of land from the channel on which to build. “Reclamation of the land will take around 22 months,” says Richard Cugley, project director, Maunsell (infrastructure designers of Al Raha Beach). “Land will start to appear out of the sea over the next few months, and reclamation at the eastern end of the site is due to be finished early next year — then we will move westerly,” he adds. Dredging is being carried out by Dredging International. The reclaimed sand will then be compacted using vibro compaction. Around 60 towers will eventually be built on the site, including 10 iconic towers by signature architects. Since the airport is just to the east of the development, height restrictions will apply to some of the towers. Road design is another integral part of the project given the overall size of the development. In addition to road networks and interchanges, water taxis will be used to transport residents and workers around Al Raha Beach. “Provisions are also being made for a future light rail link that can run alongside the road,” says Cugley. The light rail system may eventually link into the newly expanded Abu Dhabi airport as well as the city’s wider transport scheme. Al Gurm Resort Work is underway on Aldar’s $408 million waterfront Al Gurm Resort, an island project set amidst a mangrove swamp on the western edge of Abu Dhabi island. Due for completion by the last quarter of 2007, the development comprises 61 villas (nine of which are on their own islands) as well as a 161-room luxury resort and spa operated and managed by the Banyan Tree Group. National Dredging Marine Company recently began the dredging works for the project. Central Market Piling is currently underway on Aldar’s $708 million Central Market. Occupying five hectares of prime city space, the redevelopment of Abu Dhabi’s old souk area will comprise apartments, office space, restaurants, three hotels, retail outlets, a traditional Arabian souk and parking for more than 5,000 cars. The project is phased for completion in three stages, according to Mark Allchin, project manager, Aldar: “Phase one (the souk) will be three levels high and will be completed in early 2008; phase two is the retail podium and will be completed early 2009; and phase three consists of three towers — one of which will be a 50-storey hotel — and will be completed in early 2010.” Central Market’s overall build space is around 600,000m2, with 320,000m2 above ground. The development will also provide a new fire station as well as bus and taxi interchange points. Elsewhere, construction is underway on Aldar’s Abraaj development comprising 750 apartments close to Al Raha Gardens. The developer has also just handed over the first clinic dedicated to diabetes research and treatment in the UAE, located on Mussaffah Road. The centre will be run by Imperial College London. Plans are also afoot for a Ferrari-themed development in Abu Dhabi. Ferrari and Aldar signed an agreement in November last year to develop a concept that is likely to provide family entertainment in addition to hotels, retail, residential and hospitality elements. As Ghannoum, Aldar’s marketing and communications director summarises that construction activity in Abu Dhabi may yet rival that of its glitzy neighbour, Dubai: “There’s an awful lot of international interest in Abu Dhabi from contractors around the world — for example contractors from Saudi Arabia, China, Germany, India and the UK know there are huge construction opportunities. “We have oil here and we have the UAE’s capital city here. The potential for Abu Dhabi is huge.”||**||

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