Deira Islands, transforming Dubai’s seafront

With a portfolio of Dubai-based development plans including Palm Jumeirah, The World, Jumeirah Islands, Jumeirah Village, Jumeirah Park, Jumeirah Heights, The Gardens, Discovery Gardens, Al Furjan, Warsan Village, Dragon City, International City, Jebel Ali Gardens and Nad Al Sheba, Nakheel is undoubtedly among the world’s leading developers and one of the most ardent believers that Dubai in the 21st century is both a key international tourist destination and a place where you can live and work while enjoying a high quality of life. The company has several projects currently in the development and construction phases across the residential, retail, hospitality and tourism sectors, including the Deira Islands. We caught up with Nakheel CEO Sanjay Manchanda at MIPIM to discuss the project, which will transform the area known as Old Dubai into a modern residential and tourism hub for 250,000 people.

Why do you want to expand the city of Dubai?
With the Deira Islands, we want to make better use of the coast and give greater focus and visibility to the seafront, as well as promoting quality, diverse tourism. Along a 40km stretch of coastline, which includes 21km of beaches, these four artificial islands will create 15.3km of waterfront featuring hotels, residences, shopping centres, car parks and tourist ports. We’re currently progressing with work in the water in order to create solid foundations and provide a natural entrance to the ocean. We are also taking care to protect the marine environment, an area in which we have extensive experience [see Jumeirah Islands project].

What plans do you have for the islands?
Working with an international urban planning studio, we’ve drawn up plans which revolve around the Boulevard, an urban hub comprising 16 towers for residences and hotels. These are split into four groups and all come equipped with car parks, commercial areas, services, sports facilities and communal areas, with covered walkways and gardens. There’ll also be two shopping centres, the Night Souk, which is currently under construction, featuring 5300 shops and around 100 bars and restaurants, all of which have already been confirmed, and the Deira Mall, construction of which has been entrusted to United Engineering Construction LLC and will be completed in 2020. The three-storey building will house 1000 stores, cafes and restaurants.

What kind of hospitality services are you planning?
Our expansion plan includes partnerships for 18 structures and a total of 5800 rooms and apartments, in accordance with the government tourism plan ending in 2021. We’ve already signed a joint venture agreement with the Spanish company RIU Hotels & Resorts for a beach resort with water parka and 800 rooms. This is a new concept of hospitality for Dubai, a move towards all-inclusive and family-oriented holidays. We’ve also signed an agreement with Thai company Centara for a second beach resort with 550 rooms, a water park, a business centre and gyms. It’s expected to open in 2019.

How long will it all take to build?
The Night Souk is under construction now and will be operational in around a year, while for the Deira Mall we’ve recently assigned the project to a contactor. We have a very clear policy whereby we use public tenders to increase participation. We have several teams and consultants working on various aspects simultaneously in order to be ready for 2020.

Do you use tenders for the interior design and furniture projects?
Yes. When the urban planning and architecture phases are completed, we look at the other individual projects in more detail, including interior design. When we are around a year out from completion, we will bring in specialist consultants and open tenders for the interiors.

Have you already worked with Italian companies on interiors?
We haven’t yet worked directly with Italian companies, but we know that some of them are very active in the Dubai market through agents or partners. We know that they can offer top quality.

What’s your vision for Dubai in the near future?
Our goal is to continue to make a positive contribution to the economic growth of the country. The aim isn’t just to develop real estate but to align ourselves with the UAE Vision 2021 [the year in which the UAE will mark its jubilee as it aspires to become one of the leading countries in the world in terms of social identity and cohesion, safety and justice, knowledge economy, education, health, infrastructure and environmental sustainability]. We want to maintain a strong focus on the environment, sustainable development, quality of life, community services and infrastructure while protecting our shared interests.