Dubai's latest mega-project is a luxury development larger than the island of Manhattan.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- In a city already synonymous with flashy developments, a new multibillion-dollar project may set a new precedent for construction projects across the globe.
The project, the Dubai Waterfront, is a conglomeration of canals and islands studded with luxury hotels and homes. Larger than the island of Manhattan, the development will reconfigure the map of this tiny desert emirate by adding 500 miles of man-made waterfront, according to Nakheel, the government-held developer.
The Dubai Waterfront is expected to house 400,000 people and transform the last stretch of Dubai's undeveloped Gulf seashore. In a twist unique for Dubai, foreign investors are being offered a minority stake in one of the emirate's signature mega-projects. And American companies including hotel operators plan to be part of the deal.
The development, expected to cost in the tens of billions of U.S. dollars, is aimed at capitalizing on Dubai's tourism and real estate boom.
Nakheel says it has audacious designs for the site, split between land and sea. The company plans a new city center that will include one of the world's tallest skyscrapers, as well as a 45-mile canal cleaving the desert and a sweeping arc of manmade islands that spills far into the Gulf. The developer said it hopes to finish the first phase -- including the skyscraper and artificial islands -- in around five years.
Nakheel's chief executive, Sultan bin Sulayem, told Dow Jones News Service he could not yet reveal the names of investors who had approached the company or give the estimated cost of the development until investment partners have been named.
Dubai, one of the seven constituents of the United Arab Emirates, has thrived and turned into a magnet for the wealthy as oil money has flowed in to the area. In 2002, its shimmering developments helped boost an already hot real estate market as Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a decree allowing foreigners to buy homes and apartments.
Since then the crown prince has called for further developments in a city already awash in building cranes and construction.
The projects include a $5 billion theme park, Dubailand, that will be the Middle East's largest tourism and entertainment complex, including shops, restaurants, rides and sports facilities. The attractions, somewhat reminiscent of the big U.S. theme parks, are to include Pharaoh's World, Dinosaur World and a futuristic Space Hotel.
With the Dubai Waterfront, Sheik Mohammed announced that the emirate would drop further restrictions on outside investment by allowing foreign developers to take a stake in the project. Nakheel will hold a majority share of 51 percent and offer 49 percent of the project to investors.
"For the first time investors can partner with Nakheel and realize gains from land sales," said bin Sulayem, as quoted by Dow Jones.
Rags to riches
Dubai, a backwater pearl-diving village until the late 1950s, has already been busy extending its 40-mile coastline by building a manmade archipelago covered in luxury homes, hotels and resorts.
Nakheel's four ongoing man-made island projects, costing a combined $14 billion, are the world's largest land reclamation efforts.
If the waterfront is built according to plans, it will consist of 170 square miles of water and land developments, an area two-and-a-half times the size of Washington D.C.
The Palm Jumeirah, the first coastline project set to be complete next year, is a palm tree-shaped island group whose reclaimed land and sprawling concrete villas can already be seen rising above the water offshore.
A U.S. developer, Kerzner International, has announced plans to build a $1.1 billion, 2,000-room hotel complex on the Palm Jumeirah. The complex has been dubbed Atlantis, The Palm, and is expected to be similar to Kerzner's Atlantis, Paradise Island hotel complex in The Bahamas.
Another of Dubai's artificial archipelagos, The Palm Jebel Ali, will nearly be surrounded by the new islands from the Waterfront. The islands are supposed to extend a few miles into the sea.
"We only have 60 kilometers of beach in Dubai, so we want to extend the shore," Sheik Mohammed said, according to Dow Jones. "This is Dubai's biggest project yet and the world's largest waterfront development."
Nakheel said the project has been designed by an international consortium of architects, planners and urban developers.