Sprawling across an area of the hinterland almost as large as the existing metropolitan Dubai, this week the developers of Dubailand played host to a party of journalists for a site visit to show exactly what is going on and just how realistic the December 10, 2010, date for the opening of phase one has become. But you still need to use your imagination to see the reality of this vision of the future.
The tour started with a bird’s-eye view from the top of the 35-storey tower next to MotorCity and adjacent to Dubai Autodrome racetrack. Here Union Properties is well advanced with homes for 19,000 residents, an auto-related retail complex and commercial buildings.
It was a hot and dusty day in the desert but clearly work is at an advanced stage, and this element of Dubailand is on schedule. Then we moved on to the Dubai Sports City and could see that the roof is now on the cricket stadium, and enjoyed a light lunch at the Ernie Els Golf Club house. The view from the restaurant is not unlike the panorama from the Montgomerie Golf Club while the Meadows and Springs villas in the Emirates Living district were under construction five years ago. Around the edge of the course the skeletons of villas are rising from the sand and look months rather than years from completion.
On then to the City of Arabia, already famed for its dinosaur park – whose animatronic occupants are being hatched in Japan – and to hear about the 10 million square foot Mall of Arabia. That is not a misprint, this will be the largest shopping mall in the world with more than 1,000 retail units, and half of it will be open in 2010.
Even more impressively the mall is now 87 per cent leased out to retailers, so it is not going to be empty. A Venetian style canal and low-level residential accommodation is also taking shape, albeit construction of the residential buildings is only just getting under way.
The press tour concluded with a visit to the Universal Studios site, which will bring Hollywood to Dubai, and the Dubai Outlet Mall. The latter looks destined to be the most successful part of Dubailand. It offers designer clothes at bargain prices and already does a roaring trade.
These then are the core elements of Dubailand, which will open in December 2010. And by that date there will also be the remodelled Global Village, Plantation World and the Al Sahara Desert Resort.
Early buyers of apartments in the Sports City have seen the value of their properties soar, and many millions have already been made by early investors in Dubailand. For by cleverly combining residential projects within this theme park, the developers have been able to pay for the attractions and local investors have been able to successfully speculate on rising property values.
And property values in this part of the emirate have probably not peaked yet. It still requires a good deal of imagination peering out into the desert to imagine the completed Dubailand. A much better vision of the future is provided at the Dubailand sales centre that has a huge model of the completed $64 billion (Dh235bn) theme park.
Coming next will be the Dubai Wheel, a Ferris wheel like the London Eye; Dubai Lifestyle City; Beauty Land for women; Golf City with its five courses; botanical gardens with villas; the Plantation polo and equine centre; the Falcon City of Wonders, a massive villa project with its own Eiffel Tower – set to be taller than the real thing; a health farm and education city. And there will be the Aqua Dunya water park with a full-sized ship on its lake that Jumeirah will operate as a hotel; and the Dreamworks theme park as another Hollywood attraction alongside Universal Studios. And last but not least the Tiger Woods Dubai is to be the world’s most expensive golf residential community.
Undoubtedly this is the largest off-plan property development in the world, and just understanding the major components takes some time. But this is really just an extension of what has been achieved in other areas of Dubai since foreigners were allowed to buy freehold in 2002.
It was the same story in Emaar Properties’ Emirates Living project around the Emirates Golf Club. For a couple of years this was a large dusty desert building site, and yet it has now settled down into an attractive planned residential community with an abundance of greenery. House prices have quadrupled in that time.
You have to use your imagination as you tour the Dubai Sports City today, for example, and try to think how it will look by 2010. Then there will be green football pitches and tennis courts, a parade of ultra-modern stadiums and a lot of apartment blocks surrounded by gardens. It will be a very pleasant place to live and not far from downtown Dubai by car.