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Sat 21 May 2005 04:00 AM

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Pearl of the Gulf

work on the pearl continues at a rapid pace as the developer aims to hand over the project by the end of 2006

Pearl of the Gulf |~|Bashkirof,-Nick-200.jpg|~|Nick Bashkiroff, the project’s development director.|~|Work on the Pearl Qatar is advancing well as the developer aims to deliver the first phase by the end of 2006.
CW speaks to the project’s development director, Nick Bashkiroff, about the progress.

How far advanced are you on tender preparation for the main construction packages on the Pearl Qatar?

Tenders for the two towers we are developing have been sent out and will be coming back in the next couple of weeks. We are getting ready to take the infrastructure tender out, which is a very large package.
Tenders for a batch plant are back and are still being evaluated. Our goal is to be under construction with respect to towers and infrastructure in the next two months, which has to happen if we are going to deliver the project by the end of 2006.

Who decides what is being built and where?

We are building two towers, but most of the plots have been sold to developers who are also building towers on them. But they build them according to our plans.
We also have a series of town houses and retail development around the harbour.
That will be divided into separate packages of about 500 townhouses spread over 2.5 km. So there will probably be four or five packages coming up which will be a combination of town houses and retail. The town houses will sit above the retail.

Is there potential for another Pearl Qatar?

Not really, because if you look at a plan of Qatar — and Doha
in particular — and you look at the location of the Pearl
in conjunction with what is adjacent to it, it has been very strategically placed.
The Pearl has no commercial development other than retail and hospitality. It has no office space, and that was the way it was master-planned because the government did not want
to dilute the business section of Qatar.

Have you learned from the mistakes made by the developers of other offshore islands in the region, and what is your take on the current Middle Eastern fashion for offshore island developments?

You are certainly aware of these things but I think the nature
of what we are doing is so different, because we don’t have great fill depths of 15-plus metres.
We don’t have the issue of having to deal with trapped water, either. All of the inlets and bays we have are connected to channels through to the other side of the island.
I think the more destinations you have, the more reason there is to develop a yachting industry and a yachting culture, where people will travel from Oman to Dubai to Abu Dhabi, and on to Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.
The cruise industry could also be developed in a string of pearls kind of approach.

Has erosion or accretion been an issue for you in Qatar?

You do get a lot of silt build-up, which you have to deal with. But in general terms, as a result of what we are doing, the water flow is improving because it is very shallow.
By increasing the depths and clearing out the silt that has
accumulated over time, we are improving circulation.

What has been the investor response to the development?

So far, everything we have put on the market has been sold, and now we have such strong demand that we are looking
at releasing other areas of the project sooner than we would have done otherwise.
We are busy working on the next phases in terms of
getting the architecture firmed up, so we can in turn release those plots for sale as quickly as possible.

You are doing a lot of work in a short space of time. How do you co-ordinate a project of this scale?

We are reclaiming and at the same time as the reclamation work, we are starting the infrastructure and the superstructures. For a period of time, all three activities will be going on simultaneously. The logistics involved in pulling this off are very substantial.
We look at various options [to speed things up], pre-cast being one of them.
A lot of the material being excavated from the harbour is being used as fill for various other elements in the island.

How are the ground works and dredging progressing?

We are principally using a cutter dredger and there is some suction dredging. The project is as much about civils as it is marine. Where we are working is so shallow that a lot of the excavation is being done in the dry. The water depth varies between 2.5 m and 4.5 m.
We are actually blasting at the moment, because some parts of the seabed are so firm that you can’t rip it. Who would have thought you would have to blast to reclaim an island?

Other offshore developers have come in for criticism for increasing the density of their developments. Have
you been tempted to increase the density of your development, and how do you ensure consistent architectural quality?

If anything, we have done density transfers rather than increasing density. We can sell villas all day long, but there is a very limited supply. Under the terms of our agreement, developers must build out what they have purchased.
It is not possible to buy a plot and sit on it indefinitely. This is also to ensure the value of the property is realised for all the people who invest.
So we have a timeframe within which developers must construct, and certain standards to which they must adhere.||**||

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