Developers expect to complete 50 towers by end-2009 in the Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) project, according to a senior official.
"Every plot in the project is proceeding [except for cluster Z] and we expect all the 87 towers within the project will finish by 2011 or early 2012. We are happy this project is continuing to proceed in the current market," said Ahmed bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), in an exclusive interview with Emirates Business.
He spoke frankly about the construction issues and progress of the project in the context of the current crisis. He also said excavation is almost finished on Lake A and B in the project and they are now working on the wall that goes around them.
What is the current progress at the Jumeirah Lake Towers?
Thirty-five towers have received the building completion certificates and we expect the figure to reach 50 by end of the year. Maybe the figure will go up to 70 by end of 2010. And then another 10 or so by 2011 or maybe even early 2012.
Can you elaborate about the changing of hands from DMCC to Nakheel?
Nakheel did the master planning for this project, which is fully-owned and managed by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority. Few months ago, decisions were made to merge all the property arms that fell under Dubai World.
Hence the project was transferred from DMCC to Nakheel and an agreement has been made by the latter to manage the completion of this project on DMCC'c behalf. It has been a smooth transition.
What is the reaction of sub-developers over the change in management?
They don't see a change as they are dealing with the same team.
What is the reason for a change in the names of the four lakes?
The lakes are being renamed to make them more relevant to Dubai and the Middle East and also are linked to our association with precious stones.
Earlier you had Almas East & West, Elucio and Allure. Elucio, the first of the four man-made lakes planned for the project, will now be known as Zafeer, meaning sapphire in Arabic. The second one, next to the Almas Tower will be called Almas (diamond). The other two lake names will be announced in their filling ceremony.
Investors say that it has been very quiet next to Lake A and B as well as the other lakes themselves. Any updates?
Our actual cluster design is integral to each other – the sub-developer builds the tower, we build the parking and the retail spaces and it all fits together. If they do not have their towers out of the ground, we cannot go ahead. We are always trying to encourage the sub-developers and track them regularly. They are remobilising site K, which is next to these lakes and will start their three towers by this week.
The sub-developer had challenges over the past six months and now that is sorted out. The schedules are little later than we originally programmed. It will be two-an-a- half-years before it will be finished. But as DMCC we made a decision not to wait on the infrastructure for the lakes.
We have informed them that we will make the lake wall around the projects that are under construction.
They will have some trouble with logistics to build the towers but we are obligated to deliver the community.
We originally allowed the tower developers to use the lakes as a storage area for their construction material and as an access to the areas. In the past few months, we have had to ask them to clear out of the lakes so that we could develop the lake walls.
Excavation is almost finished on Lake A and B and we are currently working on the wall that goes around them.
The progress of our lakes is unfortunately tied to the progress of the towers around them. It was easy to do this with Zafeer and the lake next to it because all the towers were finished in that area.
Did you renegotiate with the contractors due to the changes in building material prices?
We have asked and received some discounts from some of the contactors to reflect the current market prices. But there are more issues than just prices. Maybe we are a little late in handing over.
So you blend all the contractual issues together when you do negotiations. Basically, we have had long-term contracts. We started out in 2005 and then costs in Dubai doubled and tripled.
Now they are getting back to 2005 levels. So it has not made so much of an impact.
What is the status of the sewage treatment plants (STP) and district cooling?
Currently we are connected to the Gardens STP, which exists behind the Ibn Battuta Mall. It can handle our flow.
In terms of district cooling, we have just commissioned a second plant a week ago and it will be sufficient for the current towers. What we have found is that demand is a bit lower for chilled water than our original calculations.
What about the connectivity of JLT to the Metro?
We were excited by the RTA's announcement of an internal bus route for JLT last week with dedicated bus stops to the two stations at 10-minutes intervals. But the stations are not finished as yet and they are expected to be complete by February 2010.
What is the progress on the connectivity of JLT to the surrounding developments in Dubai?
We have completed all the internal roads within JLT that were our responsibility in terms of construction.
However, RTA has its Western Parallel Road project, which comes from the Meadows into JLT where it splits, goes around our site and back to Ibn Battuta mall.
They are currently working on that project and they still have work to do. The contract was expected to complete by October. I think they have another year to go.
Work on lakes is on track
Providing an update on the lakes in the Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) project, Ahmed bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), said priority has been given to water modelling studies to ensure that the quality of water meet expectations.
It is understood that there has been a delay in payments and that is the reason why the lakes are delayed.
There have been no issues of delay in payments. Right now everyone is working for us and are getting paid.
Investors are concerned about the delay in the lakes. Any updates?
The lakes are very complicated. The pipeline runs under Sheikh Zayed Road and into the sea. Right now it is connected to Jumeirah Islands but we will twin that pipe and put the second pipe in, which is about 90 per cent complete in terms of construction and connect it to the sea. We also have to do some upgrades to the existing beach pumping stations. The entire system will not be in place until July 2010.
The concept of lakes is also new in Dubai. Many existing projects, which feature lakes have experienced a situation where the quality of water is not as ideal as one may wish. We have been very careful to ensure that the quality of water in our lakes is up to the expectations of a home-owner living in that area.
What you see is Lake C or Zafeer, which is not connected to the recirculation system. We are using that lake as our temporary discharge location for dewatering. We are currently connected to the Jumeirah Islands system and can discharge the water from the lake and refill it when we want.
The lake management system is really sophisticated and we are not taking any chances. The water from the sea will be circulating at an interval of around 10 days so that it retains its freshness and is free of algae. That is being determined by consultants who are doing water modelling studies for us.
What about the water quality? There are some doubts expressed by current investors in the project?
The current water quality is surprisingly good. It is hot and there is no algae. We may fill up Lake D [next to Zafeer] by this year-end and it could be filled up similarly like Zafeer. The civil works will be finished this year. It is the pump station at the beach that will take some time. At the same time, we don't want any chances with the water quality. So we have just hired Hyder Consult to do a further modeling studies related to water quality to reconfirm that the flushing rate is ideal. We will get the first results in about five to six weeks, which will give us the comfort that what we are dealing with is adequate to our criteria. For an added level of protection, we have also built a recirculation system in the lakes. Pipes will be set on the liner within the lakes and they will push the water around so that it is never stagnant. Even if you are turning it over to the sea, there are still pockets that might be harder than other areas to flush out because of the design. So we have taken this additional measure.
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