Dubai ruler unveils $1.6bn island project

Bluewaters Island project off JBR coast will include world's largest Ferris wheel
United Arab Emirates Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (AFP/Getty Images).
By Courtney Trenwith
Thu 14 Feb 2013 09:28 AM

An AED6bn (US$1.6bn) island development off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence, including what will be the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, has been approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The Bluewaters Island project will be one of the largest tourism hot spots in the world, according to the Dubai-based developers Meraas Holding.

Revealing the project on Wednesday, Meraas said the Dubai Eye would cost AED1bn and be the feature of the development.

“The world’s largest Ferris wheel will prove a must-visit experience for visitors and residents in the UAE and articulates Dubai’s long-term vision to be a key tourism hub in the world,” a statement from state news agency WAM says.

Market studies forecast that the Bluewaters project will draw more than 3m visitors annually, WAM said.

The plan includes connecting the island to the mainland by a road to Sheikh Zayed Road, a mono rail system between the entertainment zone and the metro and a pedestrian bridge to the JBR beachfront, while a cable car will ferry visitors to the entertainment piazza.

Bluewaters will also feature retail, residential, hospitality and entertainment zones.

A bespoke souq encircled by a promenade will contain alfresco dining outlets serving a variety of cuisine, retail stores and a food hall offering fresh produce in a traditional market atmosphere.

A luxury five-star hotel and varied residential options also are planned.

Meraas Holding said the 210m Dubai Eye would offer views of Dubai’s coastline and iconic landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa.

The piazza at the base of the wheel would serve as an entertainment zone and a unique venue for special occasions and conferences, while a large LED screen mounted on the wheel would create an innovative electronic platform for broadcasting, adverts, and interactive information.

"The Dubai Eye will serve as yet another iconic structure and will distinctively dominate the Dubai skyline,” Meraas Holding chairman Abdullah Al Habbai said.

“We are confident Bluewaters will develop into a key attraction for the UAE, further enhancing Dubai’s status as the preferred global entertainment and retail hub. With its refreshing and well-appointed mix of amusement avenues as well as dining and shopping choices, the island city will provide limitless options for smart living and leisure.

"We have a clear mission and vision to strengthen Dubai s global position in the tourism sector. This project will continue to build on the emirate’s reputation as leaders in the global entertainment and retail landscape. Through Meraas’s continued investment into similar mixed used developments, we aim to draw sustained investment and tourism from around the world."

The new project is yet another major development announced in recent months.

Sheikh Mohammad also plans to build a new multi-billion dollar project called Mohammad Bin Rashid City, to be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties in what is being described as the biggest real estate joint venture in the region.

No value has been given for the project but plans include building the world's biggest shopping mall, a Universal family theme park and a park that is a third bigger than Hyde Park in London.

CBRE Middle East head of research Mat Green said there was clear momentum in Dubai’s real estate sector.

“The recent announcement highlights a clear strategy from the Dubai Government to improve the emirates tourism offer as it aims to be more competitive on the global tourism stage,” he said.

“This strategy will see the launch and completion of various new leisure drivers such as ‘Bluewaters’, which are aimed at widening the overall appeal of Dubai as a tourist destination, whilst also underpinning the long term attractiveness of the emirate.

“We are likely to see further announcements over the course of the year as local developers look to exploit improving market sentiment and growing investment activity in the country.”

Construction of the Bluewaters Island project is due to start in April, 2013, with the Dubai Eye scheduled for the second quarter of 2013.

Hyundai Contracting and Starneth Engineering have been appointed as primary contractors for the design and construction of Dubai Eye.

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