Last night I was watching TV and found an interesting show on the National Geographic channel about the conception and construction of the Palm Jumeirah Island in Dubai. Though I had heard about it and seen a few pictures, the scale and value of the project was mind-boggling so I did some research…
For those who haven’t heard about this island, it is a series of man-made islands off the shore of Dubai that have been formed into the shape an enormous palm tree as seen from the sky. With money to spend and a goal of spurring tourism to diversify its almost wholly oil-based economy, the UAE government, in conjunction with its development arm, Nakheel, embarked on this huge land reclamation project.
The overall size of the development is about 5 kilometers by 5 kilometers big, compromised of a main tree “trunk” and 17 “fronds” – each about a mile long. Besides paying homage to the Nakheel name, which means palm trees in Arabic, this design has doubled Dubai’s natural 42 miles of shoreline. The entire development is a huge mixed-use development with residential, retail, hospitality, and entertainment. When completed, there will be more than 32 hotels and 4,000 residences housing 65,000 people. In the trunk of the island, where all the entertainment and services are housed, there will even be monorail and airship (blimp) transport.
Though the first homes were occupied in 2006, the island is still mostly under construction. The Atlantis Resort, located on tip of the “tree”, opened within the last year with much fanfare and press (it was even in my US Weekly). Having been been to Atlantis on Paradise Island, which I thought was pretty over-the-top, I can only imagine what this version is like where money is no object.
Aside from the pure engineering challenge of this development, I was obviously curious about the residences and what they were like given the luxurious nature of the island. So I looked this up online and found by a plethora of options offered by the developer including apartments (including a Trump building), town homes, water homes (as in a house on stilts over water) and villas. I looked into the top-of-the-line “Signature” villas, which are two-story, 7000 square feet homes located on the breakwater surrounding the palm tree so they are considered “ocean-front.” The Garden villas are on the less exclusive inner palm fronds so they are only beach-front. Interestingly, you can get a Signature villa in one of 12 styles (ranging from Arabic to Floridian to Italian) and one of nine floor plans (like Grand Rotunda, Grand Staircase and Central Pool). Here are two sample floorplans:
Overall, these floor plans are serviceable but not particularly innovative if not mundane. Of course they are large and comfortable but in a very formal and ostentatious way, particularly the more ornate styles like the Arabic or European. Considering that Garden Villas are about $4,500,000, which is to say that the Signature ones are significantly more (my guess is $10,000,000+), I would expect and want more, such as a custom-home not a high-end track home (for that see the World development below).
The prices seem even more inflated when you consider the issues that some residents have had including tight property lines, astronomical energy bills (a bit ironic huh?), barren landscape, and constant construction. Some have even called this the the “eighth blunder of the world” not the “eighth wonder of the world” as proclaimed by the developer.
Like it or not, it’s hard not to be impressed the scale, engineering, audacity, and vision for the project. In fact, this project has already been viewed as so successful that several follow-up projects have already been green-lighted and are in motion, each bigger and even more grand:
- Palm Jebel Ali: another palm-shaped island that 50% larger than the Jumeirah
- Palm Deira: another palm-shaped island that 8x larger than the Jumeriah (large enough to house 1 million people); these three “palm” islands are now know as the Palm Trilogy
- The World: 300 islands that represent the shape of the landmasses of the World, including an island for most of the major countries in World (Ireland, Australia, Finland, etc.); for $15,000,000-$250,000,000 you only get the land but can do with it as you please…
- The Universe: you can guess what this one is…
- Dubai Waterfront: a huge arc-shaped development that envelops the Palm Jebel Ali and will eventually be home to 1.5 million people
Amazing stuff. I want to check it out for myself, though it won’t be cheap… many homes on the Palm Jumeriah are for rent. I saw several Garden villas for about $2,500 a night online. I would imagine the Atlantis is at least slightly cheaper. Or conversely, if money were no object, how about the Hotel Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest and only 7-star hotel in the world?