Over the past five years, reclaimed islands have become synonymous with Dubai. Palm Jumeirah was the first, quickly followed by Palm Jebel Ali and The World.
But the difficulty in finding space means that any new projects will either have to be far smaller, or even more ambitious by being further out to sea.
After Dubai Waterfront and the Palm Deira in 2004, it appeared that the emirate’s appetite for offshore development was waning as it turned its attention inland. Projects such as the Arabian Canal and the Creek extension were launched to create waterfront real estate away from the coast.
It is for this reason that the next wave of reclaimed islands planned in the emirate will take many by surprise. But for developers, the economics of islands still make sense.
The demand for waterfront properties remains strong and, despite the thousands of kilometres of shoreline real estate being built, the opportunities for most developers are limited. The vast majority of space is owned by Nakheel, which has more than 1,000 kilometres of waterfront space under development.
In the older parts of Dubai there are still areas that can be redeveloped, as has been shown with Port Rashid and Porto Dubai. Even so, the developers of these projects still decided to increase the area of land by adding reclaimed islands and peninsulas.
For other developers there are opportunities further offshore, but the sea is no longer the blank canvas it was. Nakheel’s projects extend from Palm Deira on the Sharjah border to Dubai Waterfront on the frontier with Abu Dhabi.
This means that future projects, such as the ones now planned by Sama Dubai and Bright Start, are unlikely to be on the same scale as previous schemes, unless developers are prepared to venture even further out to sea.