‘I can only say that it will be at least 700 metres and one of the tallest towers in the world,’ Robert Lee, business development manager at Nakheel, told the Second MEED Major Projects in Dubai conference held on 6-7 December.

A US team of Pei Partnership Architects (PPA) and Axis Design Group (ADG)completed the original designs, which had called for the construction of a 750-metre-high skyscraper. ‘Al-Burj will be a mixed-use project. We are still working on its design,’ said Lee.

Nakheel has constantly refused to comment on Al-Burj’s exact height, as has Emaar on Burj Dubai’s final height. ‘It will be more than 700 metres with more than 160 floors,’ Abdullah Lahej, Emaar’s director of construction, told delegates. ‘It will be the tallest tower in the world.’ Work has now started on the 17th floor by the three-strong JV of South Korea’s Samsung Corporation, the Belgian Besixand the local Arabtec Construction.

Speaking on Dubai Waterfront, Lee said that the completed masterplan has increased the project’s synergy with neighbouring Palm Jebel Ali. ‘The two projects will house more than 1 million people,’ he said.

Nakheel had originally set up Dubai Waterfront Company (DWC)to enable local and international investors to become partners in the project with Nakheel possessing an overriding 51 per cent share in DWC. However, it is now the sole shareholder and has invited investors to purchase and build independent components within the development.

Phase 1 – Madinat al-Arab – has been sold to private investors and 60 per cent to the recently created Al-Burj Real Estate, a private stock company with capital of $2,000 million. It will be built on the last remaining stretch of coastline between Palm Jebel Ali and the Abu Dhabi border. Some 70 per cent of the 30 million-square-metre development will be residential space and will be based on a grid system, to help manage traffic. The project involves the construction of about 200 towers.Total investment in the first phase is expected to be about AED 13,000 million ($3,500 million), for which work is expected to begin in late 2006. US-based Gruzen Samtonprepared the Waterfront masterplan. UK-based Davis Langdonis the cost consultant; Canada’s Cansult is the road consultant; and France’s MVA-Systrais the traffic consultant.

A team of US-based ULand Netherlands-based Delft Hydraulicsis the hydraulics consultant; the US’ EDSA is the landscape consultant; and Lehr is the utilities consultant. Nakheel is also in the process of selecting a project manager.