Dubai's MBR City to take a decade, says Nakheel CEO

Mammoth project includes world's biggest shopping mall, more than 100 hotels, a Universal Studios franchise and huge public park
By Courtney Trenwith
Thu 04 Apr 2013 03:00 PM

Mohammed bin Rashid City, a planned multi-billion dollar development in Dubai, will be built over a decade, according to the new boss of government-owned developer Nakheel.

The mammoth project announced in November by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum includes the world's biggest shopping mall, more than 100 hotels, a Universal Studios franchise and a public park larger than Hyde Park.

It is to be developed by Dubai Holding, also owned by Dubai, and Emaar Properties.

No price tag or timeline for the project has been announced.

However, Nakheel CEO Sanjay Manchanda said the 2008-09 economic crisis that saw Dubai property prices plummet by up to 60 percent meant the MBR City project would be built over a much longer timeframe than had it been done prior to the crisis.

“MBR [City] has been announced, [it’s a] fantastic project but please read between the lines, it’s a project which is [not] going to be delivered for a while; it is a project over a decade,” Manchanda told a group of business leaders at a CEO Clubs UAE luncheon.

“That’s the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His vision [is] that we cannot just stay put, we have to move forward, we have to march.

“We learned the lessons [of the crisis, but] we will continue to showcase to the world... that we mean business.”

Manchanda said Dubai developers were no longer announcing mega projects that relied on off-plan purchases.

“[There’s] not any new major projects being launched by any of us [developers] and that is because... [we’re] making sure that... what you deliver gets absorbed,” he said.

“So there’s a slight shift... from being a supply-and-demand economics to demand economics.”

Major projects such as Dubailand, Palm Jebel Ali, Waterfront, Business Bay and The World were scrapped or stalled following the real estate bust.

When MBR City was announced analysts said it would fuel the emirate’s tourism ambitions, as long as it was properly phased and not heavily based on off-plan real estate sales.

“It comes down to the timing and the phasing of this development and getting back to sensible real estate,” UAE head of research and consultancy at CBRE Matt Green told Arabian Business.

“We are not in a time where you can develop a huge amount of real estate based just on off-plan property.”

Head of residential sales and leasing at Cluttons real estate agency, Mario Volpi, said MBR City’s lack of focus on residential meant it was more likely to be successful.

"This huge and very ambitious project is centred not on residential, as before, but tourism. I believe this is the key to what will be a successful mega development,” he said.

The first component of the new project will focus on family tourism and will include a giant park capable of receiving 35m visitors, a family entertainment centre set up in collaboration with Universal Studios and hotel facilities.

The second component, focusing on retail, will feature the largest shopping mall in the world called Mall of the World. Dubai already boasts the largest mall in the world, Emaar's Dubai Mall.

A third component will include the largest area for arts galleries in the Middle East and North Africa, while the fourth will see the development of facilities to provide "an integrated environment for entrepreneurship and innovation in the region".

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