Bahrain discovers number one formula

When Bahrain won the right to stage motor racing’s Formula One Grand Prix two years ago, it put the Middle Eastern nation firmly on the map. Now with commercial, leisure, tourism and residential developments aplenty, it looks set to stay there. Zoe Naylor explores some of the projects that have been driving the country forward since that historic first race.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  July 29, 2006

|~|132bahrain200.gif|~|A number of large-scale construction projects are taking shape in Bahrain, including the US $1.3 billion Financial Harbour.|~|While the UAE may grab the majority of the construction headlines, the diminutive Kingdom of Bahrain is attracting a growing share of attention as a swathe of new projects get underway. Bahrain made history in 2004 as the first Middle Eastern nation to stage the Formula One Grand Prix. More than 12,000 tonnes of stone were used to construct the race circuit — a third of it Welsh granite, chosen for the track surface due to its adhesive qualities. The success of this fast-tracked project put Bahrain firmly at the centre of Gulf motor sport, and at the same time helped pave the way for countless other bold construction projects. But with such a limited natural land area on which to build, reclamation work is fast becoming a vital element within Bahrain’s construction scene. The US $1 billion (BD378 million) Durrat Al Bahrain islands will stretch over an area of 20km2 of reclaimed desert and sea. Located near the southern tip of Bahrain, the development will include 13 different islands with more than 2,000 villas and 3,000 apartments. There will also be hotels, restaurants, promenades, shopping centres, a marina and an 18-hole championship golf course. Another mega project is Amwaj Islands, a group of man-made islands, which has been reclaimed off the northeast coast of Al Muharraq Island. Developed by Ossis and covering an area of around 2.8 million m2, the mixed-use project will combine residential neighbourhoods, commercial districts and leisure resorts. The $1.5 billion development will provide 9.5km of beachfront land and is due for completion in August 2007. Under Bahrain’s real estate laws, properties on Amwaj Islands can be purchased freehold by expatriates and is the first freehold development within the kingdom. With the reclamation of Amwaj Islands now complete, developers are getting underway with infrastructure projects on the islands. The latest project to be unveiled is The Lagoon Bahrain, 55,000m2 of commercial space located on a waterside strip of Amwaj Islands. “Simplex Almoayyed won the piling contract for the project and has just begun work,” says Amer Al Khan, development director, The Lagoon Bahrain. Meena is the project manager for The Lagoon, while the design architect is Australian-based Davenport Campbell. Overall completion of the project is scheduled for August 2007. Abu Dhabi Investment House is investing $86 million into The Lagoon, which will comprise eight low-rise buildings housing restaurants, cafés and other retail outlets. A 1km walkway will encircle the lagoon. According to Al Khan, Bahrain was the ideal choice for The Lagoon project. “Business here is booming, especially after Formula One was awarded to Bahrain — and tourism is definitely increasing,” he says. “A lot of new franchises are coming to Bahrain and there’s a lot of new hotels and projects coming up, too. It’s similar to how Dubai boomed over the past 10 years. “The second-to-none Lagoon project will be a waterfront landmark that will attract families and tourists to Bahrain, day and night — and will consequently have positive impacts on the local economy,” adds Al Khan. Another Bahraini project that is destined to have a major impact on the local (and regional) economy is Bahrain Bay, a $1.5 billion urban development based in the kingdom’s capital, Manama. Incorporating commercial, residential and retail space set around the Manama waterfront, the project will include Bahrain’s first Four Seasons hotel and will be also home to Arcapita’s new global headquarters. Turner Construction is the project manager for the Bahrain Bay master plan, while Atkins is the lead consultant. The project will be executed in three phases, with phase one involving a 430,000m2 land reclamation, which was started by Boskalis a few months ago. Contracts for the building works and infrastructure packages are due to be awarded shortly. Upon final completion — expected in December 2010 — the total built-up area of Bahrain Bay will be over 1.1 million m2 and will transform the kingdom into a regional centre for banking and finance. “There are many aspects that make Bahrain Bay a particularly attractive opportunity,” says Atif Abdulmalik, CEO, Arcapita. “The demographic changes within Bahrain, its proximity to the rapidly growing Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and the location within Manama’s prime northern corridor make this a compelling project. “Then there is the early commitment of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and the innovative architectural design and the experience and track record of each of the companies involved in the development; combined, they make this a unique proposition.” Adjacent to Bahrain Bay is the $1.3 billion Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH). Built on reclaimed land, the first phase of this integrated financial community (the Financial Centre) is now 75% complete. The Financial Centre is being built by main contractor Al Hamad Construction and will be the focus of all monetary activities within the development. This phase of the project incorporates the Dual Towers, the Financial Mall and the Harbour House. Scheduled for overall completion in 2010, the BFH project will spread over 380,000m² of reclaimed land designed for commercial, residential and leisure purposes. Near to BFH and Bahrain Bay, construction is due to begin on the six-lane North Manama Causeway road. Hyder is the consultant, with Boskalis winning the reclamation contract. And on the land side of the King Faisal Highway is the 240m twin tower Bahrain World Trade Center (WTC), which is currently in the fit-out stage. Designed by Atkins, the structure incorporates three 29m diameter horizontal axis turbines mounted between the WTC’s triangular-shaped towers. These will be used to harness the wind energy from the Gulf, and are predicted to provide the building with up to 15% of its power demands. The Kingdom of Bahrain is in the midst of a construction boom that shows no sign of letting up. With mega projects ranging from commercial, leisure, tourism and residential developments through to infrastructure and airport expansion, it’s no wonder that the region’s contractors are sizing up Bahrain as the latest boom town. Shopping around for retail construction projects: Bahrain City Centre is launched While shopping mall construction is rife throughout the UAE — and particularly in Dubai — Bahrain has been a little more subdued on the retail front. Up until now, that is. Work is about to begin on Bahrain City Centre, which is set to be the largest mall in the kingdom and the second largest in the Gulf. Located in Manama on Khalifa bin Salman Highway in the Seef District, the 150,000m2 shopping complex is scheduled to open in 2008. Featuring 450,000m2 of built-up area this will be the first integrated leisure and shopping destination in the kingdom. The joint venture of Cebarco-WCT was awarded the US $340 million (BD127.8 million) construction contract from MAF Investments. MEP works has been awarded to Voltas. Maher Al Shaer, GM, MAF Bahrain, said that Cebarco-WCT has proven itself through its many construction successes, which include the Bahrain International Circuit, the North Manama Corridor project and Durrat Al Bahrain Highway. “We are confident that Cebarco-WCT is an ideal partner for such a major project, which will improve the standard of living in the kingdom and provide many jobs for Bahrainis,” he says. In addition to retail facilities the project will incorporate the largest indoor water park in the region, a 5,600m2 indoor amusement park and the largest cinema in the Middle East. There will be over 40 restaurants and food outlets, as well as two international hotels with a total of 550 rooms, offering five-star and four-star facilities. Bahrain City Centre is expected to echo the success of the Deira City Centre and the Mall of the Emirates (both MAF Investment projects), which have been experiencing a booming business in Dubai. The project is also expected to attract investment to the kingdom and help raise its profile as a major regional shopping destination. Located minutes away from the King Fahad Causeway, Bahrain City Centre will generate income from the numerous Saudi families who frequently visit the kingdom. A new causeway connecting Bahrain to Qatar will provide further opportunities, again contributing to the growing national economy.||**||

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