Ten projects that will shape Dubai’s future

05 September 2023
Dubai is back to launching ambitious projects after a period of relative inactivity following Covid-19 and Expo 2020


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Dubai is back with major projects after several years of subdued activity following Expo 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, plans have emerged for 10 projects across various sectors that will help shape the emirate’s development over the coming decade. 

Many of these projects have been planned for years. After stalling during the low-oil-price era of 2015-20, positive economic tailwinds mean many of these schemes are now being revisited by their owners and relaunched.

1. Tower at Creek Harbour

The most recent relaunch announcement came at the end of August, when Emaar Properties founder Mohammad Alabbar revealed plans to redesign and relaunch the Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour.

The design works are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024, and construction slated to begin in the second half of 2024.

Details of the redesigned tower have not been launched, but sources close to the project say it will be tall and feature high-end residential units. This reflects Dubai’s buoyant property market and will stand in sharp contrast to the original design that involved building a 1,000-metre-tall observation tower.

Construction on that project stalled in 2019 after work on the foundations was completed. Two bidders were competing for the estimated $5.5bn contract to build the tower. They were Beijing-based China State Construction Engineering Corporation and a joint venture of the local/Belgian Belhasa Six Construct and Tishman, which US-based Aecom owns.

Belhasa Six Construct completed the raft foundations for the tower in May 2018. France’s Soletanche Bachy finished the piling.

Spanish/Swiss architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava Valls was the main consultant on the project, with the local office of Aurecon, supported by the UK’s RMJM and Dubai-based DEC, acting as local engineer and architect of record. The project manager for the tower was US-based Parsons.

2. Dubai Metro Blue Line

The Dubai Creek Harbour development in Ras al-Khor will connect to Dubai’s Metro network via the planned Blue Line, which will serve as an extension to the existing Red and Green lines.

Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) is preparing to issue tender documents for the Blue Line.

The Green Line extension will commence from its current terminus at Creek station in the Jadaf area. It will cross over to the Dubai Creek Harbour development and continue through Ras al-Khor, International City, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Academic City, before concluding near the Desert Rose project. The line will have 11 stations.

The Red Line extension will connect its existing terminus in Rashidiya to Mirdif City Centre and continue through Mirdif and Warqaa, before joining the Green Line extension in International City.

The project was put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic and reactivated in early 2022, when UK-based Atkins and Grimshaw, US-based Parsons and France’s Egis restarted design work.

The last metro project to be completed in Dubai was Route 2020, which connected the Red Line to the Dubai Expo site. The AED10.6bn ($2.9bn) contract to design and build the line was awarded to a consortium of Alstom, Spain’s Acciona and Turkiye’s Gulermak.

3. Deep Tunnels Portfolio

Another major infrastructure scheme is the Deep Tunnels Portfolio, which involves developing deep-gravity sewage tunnels and treatment plants across the emirate.

In August, Dubai Municipality began the process of appointing a project management consultant to oversee the scheme, which will be developed as a public-private partnership (PPP).

Two sets of deep tunnels will be constructed, terminating at two terminal pump stations at sewerage treatment plants (STPs) in Warsan and Jebel Ali. A conventional sewage and drainage collection system and STPs will be built in Hatta.

The scheme also includes recycled water distribution systems connected to the STPs.

Dubai’s Executive Council approved the project in June and said it would require an investment of about AED80bn ($22bn). It added that the project has been designed to serve the needs of the Dubai population for the next 100 years in alignment with the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 and Dubai Urban Plan 2040.

4. DWTC/Candy tower

Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) and UK-based Candy Capital have formed a joint venture to develop three towers in Dubai’s One Central commercial district.

The mixed-use towers will have two branded residences, two hotels and office space. The construction work involves building three towers. The two taller towers will be connected by a sky bridge containing one of the hotels.

Dubai-based Killa Design has been appointed as the architect for the project.

Candy Capital is a privately held family office established by British entrepreneur and businessman Nick Candy. His best-known property development is One Hyde Park in London, which he developed with his brother Christian. It comprises 86 apartments and three retail units and is considered one of the wealthiest residences in the world.

5. Al-Maktoum International airport

Dubai plans to restart the emirate’s largest construction project, the AED120bn ($33bn) expansion of Al-Maktoum International airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC). 

The expansion was officially launched in 2014. It involves building the biggest airport in the world by 2050, with the capacity to handle 255 million passengers a year. An initial phase, which was due to be completed in 2030, aims to take the airport’s capacity to 130 million passengers a year.

Altogether, the development will cover an area of 56 square kilometres.

Progress on the project slipped as the region grappled with the impact of lower oil prices and Dubai focused on developing the Expo 2020 site. Tendering for work on the project then stalled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

Firms were competing for the estimated $2.7bn substructure contract for Concourse 1 and the West Terminal building – the largest contract tendered for the project.

The contract covers the delivery of more than 1.7 million square metres of connected basement footprint, housing the people-mover tunnels, baggage handling systems, ground services road network and other back-of-house technical and support facilities.

6. Palm Jebel Ali

Dubai released details of the new masterplan for Palm Jebel Ali, an artificial island located south of Jebel Ali Freezone, in June.

Double the size of Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali will have 110 kilometres of shoreline and extensive green spaces. The development will feature over 80 hotels and resorts and a diverse range of entertainment and leisure facilities.

It includes seven connected islands, catering to approximately 35,000 families. The development also emphasises sustainability, with 30 per cent of public facilities powered by renewable energy.

MEED reported in January that local developer Nakheel had approached contractors to complete the reclamation works for Palm Jebel Ali.

As with Palm Jumeirah, it is estimated that it could take around 20 years for Palm Jebel Ali to reach its full development potential. Nakheel has previously secured AED17bn ($4.6bn) in funding to expedite the development of various projects, including the Dubai Islands and other waterfront schemes.

The upcoming dredging contract for Palm Jebel Ali is anticipated to involve 5-6 million cubic metres of material, contributing to the completion of the man-made offshore island.

While reclamation work for Palm Jebel Ali is mostly finished, the project was put on hold in 2009. Nakheel had made some progress with infrastructure development, including the construction of bridges on the island by Samsung C+T.

7. The Oasis by Emaar

Another major masterplanned development was launched by Emaar Properties in June. The $20bn Oasis by Emaar covers a total land area of more than 9.4 million square metres, close to Dubai Investments Park. The project involves building over 7,000 residential units along with water canals, lakes and parks. It will also include the development of a 150,000 sq m retail area.

8. The Island

Another project that has been restarted in recent years is The Island, which Wasl is developing.

Located off the coast of Umm Suqeim, near the Jumeirah public beach, it is expected to feature 1,400 hotel rooms and apartments, in addition to retail, food and beverage and entertainment options. The 10.5-hectare island will include properties featuring the MGM, Bellagio and Aria hotel brands.

The developer is close to appointing a contractor to build the development after bids were submitted earlier this year.

Tender documents for the contract were previously issued in 2020, when the project was being delivered with a consultancy team led by South Africa’s Mirage.

Germany’s Kling Consult is now the project manager.

9. Al-Habtoor Tower

The $1bn Al-Habtoor Tower project is located at Al-Habtoor City, next to Dubai Water Canal, on a 7,500 sq m plot. The tower, which the developer describes as one of the largest buildings in the world, will have three basement levels, a seven-storey podium and 73 floors of residences. The built-up area will be 350,000 sq m.

Its construction is technically challenging because the tower will be built above an existing parking basement that serves the already completed buildings at Al-Habtoor City.

Al-Habtoor had the option of demolishing the basement. Instead, it decided to employ a top-down approach to the construction that involves piling down through the basement, while at the same time starting construction above ground.

The top-down approach is expected to reduce the construction time by about one year, meaning the tower will be completed in 1,000 days or roughly three years.

China Railway 18th Bureau Group was appointed as the main contractor in May.

10. Dubai Pearl

After two aborted attempts, development is expected to start again at the Dubai Pearl site, located north of Dubai Media City close to the Palm Jumeirah.

The structures erected for the previous project have been demolished this year. Dubai Holding, which now owns the land, has held a design competition and is in the final stages of selecting the winning architect.

Local project management firm North 25 is overseeing the design competition.

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