Getting to the “heart” of the UAE’s island destination

Kleindienst Group speaks to CW about the progress on the The Heart of Europe destination as well as its sustainability and marine elements

The Heart of Europe project aims to be fully completed by 2023
The Heart of Europe project aims to be fully completed by 2023

Picture a sustainable island, complete with lush landscapes, sandy beaches, stunning seascapes, and “floating” villas. This mystical island - far and free from the fear of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - offers both rain and snow in a Maldives-style setting while located in the UAE’s The World island, 4km from the Dubai coastline.

The Heart of Europe island destination, which is the brainchild and fruit of labour of property developer Kleindienst Group stands out for its sustainability approach as well as its protection of marine life.

The flagship project, when complete entirely by 2023, will draw the curtains on Josef Kleindienst’s, chairman of Kleindienst Group, illustrious career, who tells Construction Week: “I want to retire after The Heart of Europe achieves completion.”

While the ongoing pandemic has sent the world into a panic state of mind, the developer behind the upcoming project remains undeterred, with a total of 1,200 workers accelerating efforts on-site.

In April, UAE contractors reported to have undergone a pricing negotiation process with developers and clients, in view of the current environment.

Speaking about the project, Kleindienst, said: “Coping with the pandemic comes with a cost for everyone involved, but we are not increasing or re-pricing any of our projects. No contractor or sub-contractor is allowed to use the situation to increase the price of the project.”

Phase 1 of The Heart of Europe is inching towards completion, to achieve delivery by Q4 2020, Kleindienst confirms, adding that the group is progressing “full speed ahead to achieve this.”

Phase 1 of  The Heart of Europe comprises three islands — Sweden, Germany and Honeymoon Island — and 78 floating ‘seahorses’, which are three-level floating homes offering underwater views, as well as the Portofino Hotel, which is touted to be the “first family exclusive hotel.”

Furthermore, Phase 1 of the project comprises 1,500 units under construction, with 2,500 yet to be constructed.

Delivery of Phase 1 of The Heart of Europe project was initially aligned with the Expo 2020 Dubai.

However, the mega event has now been postponed and will be held between October 2021 and March 2022, in light of the implications associated with the novel coronavirus outbreak globally.

“It [the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequential postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai] does not change anything for the delivery of Phase 1 of The Heart of Europe in terms of the construction, but will definitely change things in terms of the expectant tourists mix as well as the operations,” Kleindienst speaks about the project, which aims to attract international tourists as well as UAE residents.

Kleindienst Group’s tryst with all things marine and sustainable is apparent in the way it is developing The Heart of Europe destination.

The project is home to the Coral Institute, which  is aimed at the development of marine life in the surrounding waters.

The Heart of Europe also has a zero-discharge policy and zero micro-plastics policy to ensure the protection of the Arabian Gulf and species of marine life that reside around the seven islands.

“We are taking steps to ensure that micro-plastic does not pollute the oceans around us. The water around us is crystal clear and we need to maintain that,” Kleindienst says.

The developer foresees a sustainable future where tourists’ hospitality preferences will be driven by hotels’ sustainability offerings.

“Sustainability in construction and operation of hotels and resorts is key. While sustainability comes with a cost, avoiding it would bear a much bigger cost,” he adds.

The island is committed to be totally car-free, use clean energy and will eventually offer sustainable water transportation.

While the ongoing pandemic had crippled businesses globally, it was interesting to note that work progressed on The Heart of Europe, like the project is being built in a parallel world, readying to welcome tourists soon.

Kliendienst had earlier said in a statement: “Islands are free from any pandemic that affects life onshore and that’s the beauty of life on the islands. The Heart of Europe islands remain completely free from the virus.”

The developer maintains that “the key to operate in any place in the current environment, is testing.”

Kleindienst Group appointed a safety team in February this year. “We are carrying out rapid testing and implementing measures on site; tourists will be allowed entry to The Heart of Europe destination only after testing.”

The developer announced that it shifted operations to the islands just before the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

The project was put on lockdown, with all engineers, architects, labourers and contractors staying on the island to mitigate impact of the virus, Kleindienst explains, adding that the labourers working on the project are now hosted in labour camps on the island.

Sub-contractors are not allowed to visit the island as part of a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the virus. “Work is going on more than usual because we have nothing to do on the islands but to work,” he jokes.

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