Dubai, the Persian Gulf sheikhdom with the tallest building and biggest shopping mall, plans to build a Ferris wheel that would beat New York’s attempt to set the world height record with a Staten Island attraction.
The Dubai Eye will cost 1 billion dirhams to build and will stand at 210 meters (688 feet), according to a statement on the website of the emirate’s ruler. It will be the centerpiece of a 6 billion-dirham ($1.6 billion) project known as Bluewaters that includes a hotel, restaurants and a family entertainment center on a man-made island off Dubai’s coast. The first phase is set to start in April.
Competition for the tallest wheel is so fierce that projects are losing claims to a record before they are built. Dubai becomes the third city with plans to top the 165-meter Singapore Flyer. In September, New York officials announced plans for a 190-meter wheel would be the centerpiece of a development on Staten Island valued at almost $500 million. That ride would beat Las Vegas’s High Roller, a 167-meter wheel under construction.
“Ferris wheels have been proven successful in attracting visitors and generating revenue,” said Craig Plumb, regional head of research at broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. “The London Eye and the Singapore Flyer have been among the most visited attractions in both cities.”
Dubai is starting new projects and reviving developments that stalled when the property market collapsed in 2008. The emirate, which racked up $113 billion of debt turning itself into a business and tourism hub, last year approved the construction of five theme parks days after saying it plans to build a new district to include a shopping mall that will break the size record currently held by the Dubai Mall.
The Dubai Eye will be built on an island connected to the city by a road and monorail and will feature a traditional Middle Eastern market, or souq, encircled by a promenade lined with restaurants, according to the statement. The second phase of the projects includes low rise residential buildings.
The EDF Energy London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel, which is equivalent to 64 of the city’s iconic red telephone boxes piled on top of each other, according to its website. On average, 3.75 million people ride the wheel each year. Dubai says it plans to attract about 3 million a year.
“Dubai needs to boost its tourism offering to compete with markets in Europe and the U.S. that have natural tourism drivers that Dubai doesn’t have,” said Matthew Green, head of U.A.E. research at CBRE Group Inc. In Dubai, “attractions have to be built whether its theme parks, museums or golf courses to generate new demand,” he said.
While tourism developments tend to be a safer bet than homes and offices, those projects should be built over longer intervals and should be built according to demand, Green said. The roads and bridges for the surrounding areas should be expanded and improved to cope with the increased traffic flow, he said.
Meraas Holding, a Dubai-based real estate developer, will start building the Dubai Eye in the second quarter, according to the ruler’s website. Starneth BV has been hired to design the attraction. The engineering firm, which includes members of the team that built the London Eye, is also working on New York City’s Ferris wheel.
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