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Site visit: Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Palm Jumeirah

by Michael Fahy on Jul 28, 2013

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The Waldorf Astoria on the Palm Jumeirah is the latest hotel on the man-made peninsula in Dubai. It is not the first hotel built there, but it is the deepest and that presented some unique challenges for constructors as Michael Fahy discovers.

The resurgence of Dubai’s economy over the past 12 months has been led by growth in two sectors – retail and tourism.

Recent tourism figures published for the emirate suggested that visitor numbers grew by 9% in 2012 to 10m. Moreover, a new report by property consultancy Jones Lang La Salle suggests that this upward trend has continued into 2013, with the city’s 58,000-plus hotel rooms currently achieving an occupancy rate of around 85%.

It also pointed to a recent MasterCard report which stated that the emirate is set to become the world’s seventh most popular tourism destination, and at current growth rates is likely to be in the top three by 2017 – ahead of Singapore, New York and Paris.

Given this dramatic turnaround, Al Habtoor Group’s decision in 2011 to press ahead with a plan to build a $272m (AED1bn) hotel resort which will be managed by Hilton Group’s Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts brand at Palm Jumeirah, now looks prescient.

The company signed a deal with main contractor Al Shafar General Contracting (ASGC) in June 2011 to build a 320-room five-star hotel complex with six restaurants, a huge spa area and its own private beach.

The hotel is set to join a group of other luxury properties on the crescent of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah and is being built next to the existing Rixos resort. It is being built on a 49,000m2 plot, although the built-up area of the structure will be 20,000m2, with the rest of the land being used for outdoor swimming and dining areas and a large internal courtyard area at the centre of the structure, which has been designed with elements representing a crescent, a circle and a wave.

Lower floors will house the lobby and common areas such as the spa, a 600-capacity ballroom, meeting halls and a business centre, while rooms and suites will be based on the upper floors. The basement will contain back-of-house food preparation and cold-storage areas, huge laundry facilities and parking.

The total built-up area of project, which has two basement levels and six upper floors, is 110,000m2.

Work started on the hotel, which was designed by Dubai-based Khatib and Alami, on 24 August 2011. Initially, the contract period was 24 months, but according to the Waldorf Astoria website the hotel is not due to open until 2014. The Habtoor Hotels site states that it will open later this year.

Ibrahim Salib, site manager for ASGC, said that as main contractor it is “pushing a lot of resources into the site”.

“We are trying to achieve the earliest possible dates for completion,” he told Construction Week.

Building such a structure on an artificial island surrounded by seawater on three sides is not without its challenges, though.

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