The World, the offshore island project owned by Nakheel, will see its first island open to the public this year with the launch of a luxury beach resort, Arabian Business can reveal.
The World Island Beach Club [photos], which is based on the island of Lebanon, is nearing completion and is on track to open in the fourth quarter, a senior executive on the project said Tuesday.
“We are the first commercial development on The World,” Reza Sinnen, operations manager of the World Island Beach Club, told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview.
The development includes a 100-seat restaurant, cabanas, a lounge area and entertainment facilities, and is owned by Indian entrepreneur Wakil Admed Azmi, who bought the island in 2008.
Membership to the beach club could cost up to AED40,000 a year and – with a pontoon that can accommodate up to 80ft yachts – the company is keen to tap the lucrative yachting community.
“We want to run weekend events with promoters, not en masse but for people who have yachts… People around 35 to 40. Like a private club where you are known by name. I also think event and functions and launches will be a major attraction to the island,” Sinnen said.
“We have already had an enquiry from one individual who wanted the island for himself on the 31 December so we are definitely going to do a [New Year’s Eve] night there.”
Announced at the height of Dubai’s real estate bubble, ‘The World’ epitomised the emirate’s boom-time ambition exemplified by its indebted developer Nakheel.
Construction on the offshore project ground to a virtual standstill in the wake of the economic downturn, which saw real estate prices in Dubai fall more than 60 percent from their peak.
Almost all buyers on the project have failed to begin work, with the exception of work carried out by Kleindienst Group, the developer behind the six-island Heart of Europe Project.
Nakheel has said 70 percent of the 300 manmade islands are sold and that building work is the responsibility of the owners.
Lebanon was paid for in full in 2008 by Azmi who saw the plunge in construction costs that accompanied the downturn as an opportunity to press ahead with building, said Sinnen.
The cost of the island and the construction work has hit AED60m, he said.
“[Azmi] is doing everything himself and has cut down the cost of construction by nearly 70 percent. He project-managed himself,” said Sinnen, who estimated another AED8m would need to be invested to complete the resort in time for the opening in late 2011.
The island’s management is in talks with the Road and Transport Authority about the possibility of providing a taxi service to the island and with Sealinks to offer seaplane visits to the resort.
“We believe we cannot wait. We are about four months away. We are tying up with partners, yacht operators, travel agents, the RTA, Sealink… There is a lot to do,” Sinnen said.
Nakheel, the real estate arm of state-owned conglomerate Dubai World, has been embroiled in a series of legal rows with buyers and contractors linked to The World islands.
The developer, which confirmed the departure of its CEO Chris O’Donnell last week, is suing Penguin Marine Boat Services, the company contracted to ferry goods to the islands, a dispute that has affected island owners seeking to fast-track construction on their sites.
“It has been fraught by many obstacles,” Sinnen said. “Water and electricity, it was understood you would have to do your own stuff. There was supposed to be service hubs within The World islands and on land which would help the operations to start building and operations,” he said.
Earlier this year, Arabian Business reported that five islands on The World were up for sale at cut-price rates from owners looking to offload the land.
“Nakheel doesn’t seem to be not that much interested,” Sinnen said.business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.