6 oct 08 | The National

Cityscape shines amid global gloom


Meraas Development yesterday unveiled Cityscape Dubai's centerpiece project, the Jumeirah Gardens, a Dh350 billion (US$98.2bn) development that will boast one of the world's tallest buildings comprised of three towers linked by sky bridges.

The project by the company, which is owned by the Dubai Government, is considered one of the biggest and most ambitious property developments ever to be launched anywhere - it is expected to be the size of a small city - and comes at a time when the rest of the world is grappling with a deepening credit crisis and falling stock markets.

More than 60,000 visitors from 150 countries flooded into the emirate's international exhibition centre at the beginning of the show, itself the largest of its kind on earth.

A cast of international celebrities including Michael Schumacher, the former Formula One champion, added a touch of glamour to the four-day spectacle, where more than 1,000 exhibitors revealed a series of architecturally extraordinary buildings.

The Meraas master development includes three buildings by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, the Chicago architects who were the masterminds behind the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower that will be completed by the end of next year.

But its highlight is the 1 Dubai building, which will rise 600 metres above the ground, and be comprised of three towers connected by sky bridges. The building would be about three quarters as high as the Burj Dubai, located on Sheikh Zayed Road, the emirate's main motorway.

"Dubai is always redefining itself," said Sina al Kazim, the chief executive of Meraas Development. "We are going to complement the other developers."

He said 1 Dubai would be Meraas's contribution to the architectural uniqueness of the city. The sheer scale of the project meant it would take 12 years to build.

The iconic buildings would be spread throughout the massive development, along with smaller towers and a park that is "half the size of [New York's] Central Park", Mr. Kazim said.

The developers could not say precisely how many people the project would house, but it will include seven man-made islands to be built just off the coast for mostly low-rise, residential buildings.
A 14km boulevard with a tram system would snake through the project and water taxis would be available on a network of canals.

Meraas Development is part of Meraas Holding, a conglomerate that also has hospitality, investment and education arms.

Meraas was earlier considering even more dramatic plans for Jumeirah Gardens, including one architectural plan for a group of buildings that fused at the top and rose more than 2.4km.

To put the total anticipated cost of the Jumeirah Gardens into a global context, the project is expected to cost almost $30bn more than the financial package put together by the German government to bail out Hypo Real Estate Holding, the country's second-largest mortgage provider.