The Middle East is placing itself on the world map with a number of exciting and ambitious projects and Qatar, far from being left behind, is placing itself at the forefront.
The Pearl-Qatar, one of just three real estate projects to be identified as open to foreign investment, is a $2.5 billion Riviera-style manmade island, covering 400 hectares (four million sq m) of reclaimed land.
It is Qatar’s first international real estate venture, the largest real estate development in the country at the moment, and the first to offer freehold and residential rights to international investors.
It will create over 30 km of new coastline and eventually house 30,000 residents in an upscale, multi-cultural residential community. The four-phase development will have 10 distinct districts with three luxury hotels, four marinas, with combined mooring for over 700 boats, and 60,000 sq m of luxury retail and restaurant space.
The Pearl-Qatar’s developer, UDC, has issued a contractors’ prequalification tender for the execution of infrastructure work across the whole of the island and for the highrise residential towers and associated parking, townhouses and shops surrounding the main Porto Arabia marina. Dredging work is currently under way and ahead of schedule; construction of the first buildings is expected to commence in April this year, according to Khalil Al Sholy, managing director of UDC, and the completed project build-out is due for completion in 2009.
UDC was established in 1999 and is the country’s largest private sector shareholding company. The first phase of the development went on sale in the third quarter of 2004, and all seven 20-storey towers sold out immediately. The first luxury beach villas, being designed by award-winning US architects RNL International in association with KEO International, went on sale in mid-December. The ‘La Plage West’ villas will be ready for occupation by March 2007 and make up the first of three sea-view La Plage neighbourhoods which will feature some 198 villas.
The six distinct villa designs, all with their own private pool and beach frontage, range from three to six bedrooms and have a living space ranging from 440 to 1,019 sq m. They also come with a range of integral value-added features which include 24-hour security, gated access, tiled roofs, large plots, quality finishes and fully landscaped gardens.
Investors in La Plage villas will have three purchase options. The first involves a choice of plot and approved villa design and villa construction by UDC. The second alternative involves the investor choosing a plot and villa design and appointing his own construction company while the third permits them to choose their own plot, then design and build their own villa in accordance with UDC guidelines.
The Pearl-Qatar is about 350 m offshore from the West Bay Lagoon area of Doha and The Ritz-Carlton, Doha hotel. The developers say that, whilst offering an exclusive retreat, the island will also be closely integrated with, and have easy access to, the capital’s thriving community.
Development director Nick Bashkiroff says investors and local communities now expect developers to deliver social responsibility along with their projects. “Certainly, The Pearl-Qatar is a commercial enterprise but it will also have numerous socio-economic benefits for the country, amongst which is providing a significant boost to the local economy through spending by the labour force and local material purchases during construction of the island.
A second property development open to non-nationals is the West Bay Lagoon area. A proposed North Beach Development, part of the $15 million Tourism Master Plan, will cover a 32 sq km site, just north of the Ritz-Carlton on the coast, and will complement The Pearl-Qatar. It will include a number of new features such as a dedicated family entertainment district, providing both daytime and night-time attractions for residents and tourists alike. On the commercial side, proposals are under discussion for a ‘New Doha’ district, a development in which no building will be less than 15 storeys high; some 180 tower blocks are currently in the discussion design or construction phases.
The family-oriented Al Fareej Resort with Arabian-style chalets will be located near the town of Al Khor, 40 km north of Doha. Construction is set to begin this year. The modern-style luxury resort, Al Mafjar Resort, will be built around a natural breakwater and lagoon, with construction also due to begin in 2005. Three new golf courses will also be developed in the country.