Abu Dhabi Starts Constructing Louvre Museum Branch After Delays

Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich sheikhdom that’s transforming itself into a business and cultural hub, awarded a contract to build a branch of the Louvre museum on an island off its coast after a property crash resulted in delays.

A venture of Arabtec Holding Co., Constructora San Jose SA and Oger Abu Dhabi won a 2.4 billion-dirham ($653 million) contract from government-owned Tourism Development & Investment Co., according to a statement posted on Dubai’s stock market today. Arabtec, whose shares climbed to the highest in more than two months, said construction will start immediately.

Abu Dhabi, which holds about 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, said last January it was restarting real-estate projects including branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums that were suspended for two years while a review of their viability was under way. The global credit crisis in 2008 caused a speculation-driven property boom to burst and caused the cancellation or delay of about $757 billion of projects in the United Arab Emirates, Citigroup said in a report in October.

The museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, will be built on 64,000 square meters (688,890 square foot) on Saadiyat island and will be opened in 2015, Arabtec said in the statement. The structure will be covered by a “shallow dome” that filters light into the building, and evoke “the image of a city floating on the sea.” The museum is part of a cultural district that also includes a franchise of the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum set to open in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Construction of the Louvre’s concrete frames is set to be completed by the first quarter of next year, while the main dome will be finished by the end of 2014, Arabtec said.

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