Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development Company (TDIC) has invited contractors to prequalify for the contract to build the estimated $1bn Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi for a second time, almost three years after companies were first invited to prequalify for the project.

The planned 24,000 square-metre Louvre Abu Dhabi has suffered from a number of delays since the project was launched in 2007. Contractors were first prequalified for the main construction contract in 2009, and the client received bids for the tender in November 2010. After short-listing two contractors for the main construction package in 2011, TDIC has now decided to cancel the original tender and re-open the prequalification process.

Regional contractors had hoped the Louvre project would be fast-tracked after the Abu Dhabi Executive Council approved the museum’s planned expenditure in January. The re-opening of the tender has raised doubts among contractors regarding whether construction work will now commence before the end of 2012.

“It took over a year for bids to go in after prequalification last time, so who knows how long it will take this time?” says one UAE-based regional contractor.

TDIC had originally planned to build the museum under a design and build contract, but in late-2009, the developer decided to issue tenders for a series of lump-sum construction packages, including the substructure, piling, loading bays and the main construction works.

After receiving bids from at least five groups in November 2010, TDIC shortlisted Canada’s Brookfield Multiplex and a joint venture of Al-Habtoor Leighton Group with South Africa’s Murray & Roberts Contractors (Middle East) in early 2011. But after a year, and no further announcements, TDIC has re-opened the tender.

Contractors say that the new construction tender appears to be the same as the last. The main package will involve the concrete structure and superstructure works, structural steel works, cladding and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of the capital’s 18-square-kilometre Saadiyat Island Cultural District. Piling work on the Louvre project has been completed by Germany’s Bauer.

The Louvre is not the only museum at the Saadiyat Island Cultural District that has suffered from slow progress. In October last year, TDIC cancelled the tender for the structural package on the Guggenheim museum. The planned Guggenheim museum will cover a total area of 30,000 square metres and will be larger than the existing Guggenheim museums in New York, Venice, Bilbao, Berlin and Las Vegas.

Other projects earmarked for Saadiyat Island’s cultural district include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a maritime museum and a performing arts centre. The Sheikh Zayed National Museum has been designed by Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid has provided designs for the performing arts centre.