World in motion

Dubai World Central will boast the world's largest airport, and will cover an area almost twice the size of Hong Kong island. Christopher Sell takes more than just a flying visit.

Six of the best: Dubai World Central will feature the world?s largest airport, featuring six runways, plus affiliated cities including Commercial City
Six of the best: Dubai World Central will feature the world?s largest airport, featuring six runways, plus affiliated cities including Commercial City

A little over nine months since Construction Week last visited the site, Dubai World Central (DWC) - the massive 140km2 urban aviation community - is beginning to take shape. From resembling little more than an extension of the desert, there is now a tangible sense of a development gaining pace.

The first runway has been finished, with work nearing completion on the air traffic control tower. A number of major contracts have been awarded and construction of the Dubai Logistics City (DLC) headquarters is well underway.


JXB is expected to receive its first flight in mid-2009 and be at full capacity by 2015.

Central to the emirate's vision of harbouring an infrastructure for an international city of the future, Dubai World Central, which is focused around the Al Maktoum International Airport (JXB) also contains DLC, DWC Commercial City, DWC Residential City, DWC Golf City and DWC Aviation City.

Earlier this year, a reshuffle of the original masterplan saw Enterprise Park make way for an expanded Aviation City and Exhibition City. Michael Proffitt, CEO, DLC explained the move after it became clear that the demand for such an undertaking was already being met in Dubai. "Enterprise Park was for science and technology but there are areas which focus on that in Dubai," he said.

Work also finished this month on the first runway at JXB. At a cost of US $272 million (AED 1 billion), 4.5km long and 50m-wide, it will be the first of six runways that will form part of the world's largest airport.

Located at Jebel Ali, approximately 40km from the centre of Dubai, JXB is expected to receive its first flight in mid-2009, and will be at full capacity by 2015. Phase one of JXB, which includes the construction of the first runway and the first passenger and cargo terminals, has been estimated at $8.1 billion.

Built by Al Naboodah, the runway is the first tender to be fully executed within DWC. It was completed on schedule - in the projected 600 days - and represents an aviation record for the fastest A-380 enabled CAT III runway construction. Once approval is received for the first runway - which must be subjected to strenuous testing and trials over the next few months to fulfil its CAT III requirements, construction will begin on the second runway, with tenders expected to be issued in the first quarter of next year.

Progress has continued on a number of other key aspects of the project. JXB's $27 million first passenger terminal, being built by Arabtec and Max Boegl in a UAE-German joint venture that will cater to low-cost, regional and charter airlines, is 40% complete, with the finishes and MEP tender to be awarded before the end of the year.

This new temporary terminal is being designed to cater for between five to seven million passengers while the main terminal and concourse is being built. "The first building is temporary, until we finish the main terminal and concourse, which are huge - bigger than Dubai Airport. That is why it is taking time," says Abdulla Al Falasi, DWC's marketing and corporate communications director. "We are also building an area for executive jets, helicopters and a cargo terminal." This is designed to alleviate the load on the straining Dubai Airport, he adds.

JXB will feature two mega-terminals and six concourses designed to handle in excess of 120 million passengers and 12 million tonnes annually. They are currently at the design stage. It is expected that by mid-2008, the design of the terminals will be finalised.

Al Falasi stresses, however, that JXB does not signal the end of Dubai Airport: "We will have two airports. Some of the airlines will move to the new airport while some will move later. But we are not going to close Dubai Airport, it will run as it is until the last aircraft and company leaves. We are not stopping any investment in Dubai airport because Dubai is increasing very fast - it is seeing a 15% annual increase."

The first phase will see shifting of some freighter cargo and unscheduled flights, executive and helicopters to free up space for international flights, but Al Falasi would not be drawn on which carriers might move first to the new airport, only saying that further details will be announced during the Dubai Air Show.

One detail already announced was that DWC Aviation City will also boast the world's largest maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre. The centre will be part of the $1.4 billion, 6.7 km2 city designed as a one-stop centre for all aviation-related operations.

A raft of further contracts have recently been awarded at DWC, all integral to its ongoing infrastructure development. These include other airport structures being built by Arabtec and Max Boegl, such as the $76 million cargo terminal, which is half finished, and the $39 million air traffic control tower (ATC) and navigational aids building, which is 25% complete. To reach 92 metres, it will be the Middle East's tallest freestanding ATC tower, which, at present, is 70% complete.

Other JXB projects include the $247 million aprons and associated taxiways contract, which is over 75% complete; the $29 million fuel farms, tendered to another UAE-German joint venture, Thermo/Amak; and the navigational aids package worth $33 million, which is shared by the UK's Park Air Systems and Thales of France.

Tenders for other DWC real estate components will commence soon, with Staff Village accommodation, IT offices and infrastructure for developers to start construction. The real estate components include Residential City, which will offer a combination of freehold and leased quality homes, Commercial City, which will feature hundreds of office tower blocks, and Golf City, which will have over 5,000 villas and two 18-hole golf courses.

Last month, DWC announced that Broadway Malyan, a leading international architectural and integrated design practice, partnered with DWC in creating an urban city design for Commercial City. Split into eight zones, the city is being designed to cater for all lifestyle amenities.

The Urban Village will be a mid-to-high end low-density living destination, including sport and leisure clubs, while the Lake District will offer retail, leisure and office destinations in a lakeside environment. The ‘seven towers' zone will feature a two-kilometre park, while Central Park is a water-edged destination including a seven-kilometre central plaza.

The Creative Commercial District has been designed as a hub for the media and creative industries and will include office space, showrooms and fashion boutiques. The final two zones are Grand Central - a leisure and entertainment destination and the Business District, which will be Commercial City's finance and banking sector.

These eight zones are separated into several districts, including business, residential and leisure. To manage an expected population of 450,000, working and living in the city, several transit roads will be developed, which will include the Dubai Metro.

DLC will make up one part of the world's first integrated, multi-modal logistics platform in a single-bonded free zone environment comprising DLC, JXB, Aviation City and Jebel Ali port. It is being designed to become the region's unchallenged logistics hub, catering to two billion people throughout the Middle East, Indian sub-continent, Africa and the CIS, which are all within three to four hours flying time of Dubai. Proffitt adds that DLC's Office Park is nearly 20% complete and will be ready for tenant use in March 2009.

As Dubai continues to strain under its own success, developments such as DWC represent not just the future for the city, but act as a valve for the increasing pressure the city finds itself under. In a bid to become a hub in international, trade and tourism terms, DWC is pivotal for the future success of Dubai.

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