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Mon 21 Jan 2008 03:05 PM

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World buyers rattled by Universe coastline eclipse

EXCLUSIVE: Launch of The Universe raises concerns among buyers of The World's islands.

Nakheel, one of the world's largest property developers, on Monday said the recent launch of The Universe had received a generally positive reception from buyers on The World islands, but admitted some buyers had expressed concerns about the new project.

"All our buyers have been given a look at the first presentations," said Robert Lee, executive director of investment projects at Nakheel, told ArabianBusiness.com at the inaugural Tourism Development Projects and Investment Market held in Dubai.

"The reactions have been generally positive - you can't say they've all been positive."

Lee, who specialises in managing strategic and long-term assets for Nakheel, said the nature of the discussions with buyers of The World, completed last week, would remain private at the company.

Nakheel on Sunday revealed plans to develop The Universe, a cluster of manmade islands inspired by the solar system which are to be located between Nakheel's other famous island projects the Palm Jumeirah and Palm Deira, and cradle The World archipelago.

The World, 300-man made islands in the shape of a world map, was completed last week after five years in development.

Exclusive photographs from ArabianBusiness.com demonstrate that residents on The World would have had a largely unobstructed view of the Dubai skyline prior to the launch of The Universe.

"If you look at The Universe, it is all within The World and the coastline," Lee said, when asked about any obstruction of views for resident on The World. "For the residents of The World, they still have an unobstructed view outwards into the Gulf."

When asked how the vision of The Universe came about, Lee said that, as one of the senior directors of the company, he had a contributing role, but credit for the design and development lay with Abdul Rahman Kalantar, Nakheel's managing director for design and development, and his team.

"He was the guardian for the process," said Lee about the design team's vision. "When a project like this comes together, it goes through several stages and processes to make sure we are going the right way."

Sand-dredging has been a key feature of all Nakheel's island projects, though industry concerns have been raised about the ability of Nakheel to dredge more sand for The Universe.

Lee confirmed that feasibility studies have yet to be conducted for The Universe with regards to sand-dredging.

"Our company is based on innovation - but profitable innovation," said Lee. "If it's not profitable, it's not sustainable."

Asked whether concerns had been raised within Nakheel about whether the addition of The Universe had cluttered the coast of Dubai, Lee said the company had thoroughly discussed the issue.

"These kind of projects when they come through, we had a lot of discussions inside," he said.

Lee said that Nakheel as a company welcomed feedback on The Universe and on its vision of Dubai.

"The Universe is a concept for us and there are some critical issues, and we are inviting some people to participate, comment and contribute and we will take the comments in the right perspective, absolutely."

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall