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Dubai 3.0

by Gerhard Hope on Dec 1, 2012

Gerhard Hope
Gerhard Hope

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More good news for Dubai this week, as Sheikh Mohammed’s dictum that “the process of development never stops and has no limits” saw the announcement of Mohammed Bin Rashid City, which will boast the world’s largest shopping mall (taking the title away from Dubai Mall, no less) and, intriguingly, a park that will be bigger than Hyde Park in London. (The sustainability of the latter will be interesting.).

To be located between Emirates, Al Khail and Sheikh Zayed Roads, the new ‘city’ is expected to kickstart the Dubai 3.0 development plan, which will finally see attention being paid to the area known as New Dubai, the part of the emirate the hardest-hit by the property crash following the global economic downturn.

A cost estimate of the project, which will be developed by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties, has not been revealed, but it is likely to be a significant figure.

The construction industry had hardly digested that good news when Sheikh Mohammed made yet another mega announcement, this time for a $2.7bn leisure and entertainment complex at Jebel Ali. The project will comprise five separate theme parks, ranging from Dubai Adventure Studios (actually announced by Meraas in 2011) to Bollywood Parks.

Interestingly, Dubai actually lacks any sort of mega, top-billed attraction that acts as a drawcard for tourists. Apart from its plethora of shopping malls, that is, and things like Dubai Fountain.

However, this is insufficient to lure tourists to spend more time in the emirate; Dubai International Airport constantly reports on its record throughput of airline passengers, but the trick is to get them to spend more time, and money, in Dubai. This, in turn, will lead to a demand for increased infrastructure and facilities as all these massive new developments finally kick off.

The great thing about Dubai is that it is still something of a tabula rasa, albeit with a lot of gaps in the overall masterplan. However, the swathe of recent projects will go a long way to filling in those gaps and completing Dubai’s transformation into a modern metropolis. Many cities undergoing a similar transformation are not nearly as fortunate.

Take Makkah, for example, where a 230,000m2 redevelopment project is being undertaken by the Jabal Omar Development Company, literally across the road from the Grand Mosque Plaza. About half of the project will be residential; the international media carried a story this week that the project will see the demolition of the Jabal slum area.

The Makkah Development Authority (MDA) has stated that slum areas in Makkah, Jeddah and Taif currently house a million people. In Makkah alone, it is reported that about 70 slum areas constitute 25% of the Holy City’s urban area.

The MDA states that this poses a “security, environmental and health challenge”, hence the redevelopment of large chunks of the city. Of course, it is to be hoped that such projects will not displace the original inhabitants, but instead provide alternate accommodation.