Dubai’s record tower has high price: $1.5 billion

Adam Schreck ,  Associated Press ,  Dubai   |  Mon, 01/04/2010 5:11 PM  |  The Jakarta Post – Business

Crews in Dubai rushed to complete final preparations for the opening of the world’s tallest skyscraper, which the developer said Monday cost about $1.5 billion to build.

That comes out to more than $9 million per floor in the more than 160-story Burj Dubai, which is scheduled to officially open later Monday.

The official height has not been released, with the developer Emaar Properties saying only that the spire stands more than 800 meters tall. Mohammed Alabbar, Emaar’s chairman, said Dubai’s ruler will announce the height at the evening inauguration ceremony.

Alabbar said the landmark glass-and-metal clad tower is 90 percent sold in a mix of residential units, offices and other space, offering a counterpoint to Dubai’s financial woes. The Gulf boomtown is now mired in debt and many buildings sit largely empty – the result of overbuilding during a property bubble that has since burst.

Still, the tower’s developer and other officials were in a festive mood, focusing on the city-state’s future potential rather than past missteps.

“Crises come and go. And cities move on,” Alabbar told reporters before the inauguration. “You have to move on. Because if you stop taking decisions, you stop growing.”

At a reported height of 2,684 feet (818 meters), the Burj Dubai long ago vanquished its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

The Burj’s record-seeking developers didn’t stop there.

The building boasts the most stories and highest occupied floor of any building in the world, and ranks as the world’s tallest structure, beating out a television mast in North Dakota. Its observation deck – on floor 124 – also sets a record.

“We weren’t sure how high we could go,” said Bill Baker, the building’s structural engineer, who is in Dubai for the inauguration. “It was kind of an exploration. … A learning experience”

Baker, of Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, said early designs for the Burj had it edging out the world’s previous record-holder, the Taipei 101, by about 33 feet (10 meters). The Taiwan tower rises 1,667 feet (508 meters).

Dubai’s ruler will open the tapering metal-and-glass spire with a fireworks display Monday evening. Cleaning crews were busy scrubbing windows and sweeping the plaza at the tower’s base just hours before festivities began.

Security is expected to be tight. Local newspapers quoted Maj. Gen. Mohammed Eid al-Mansouri, head of the protective security and emergency unit for Dubai Police, saying more than 1,000 security personnel, including plainclothes police and sharpshooters, will be deployed to secure the site for the opening.

Work on the Burj Dubai began in 2004 and continued rapidly. At times, new floors were being added almost every three days, reflecting Dubai’s raging push to reshape itself over a few years from a small-time desert outpost into a cosmopolitan urban giant packed with skyscrapers.

The finished product contains more than 160 floors. That is over 50 stories more than Chicago’s Willis Tower, the tallest record-holder in the U.S. formerly known as the Sears Tower.

At their peak, some apartments in the Burj were selling for more than $1,900 per square foot, though they now can go for less than half that, said Heather Wipperman Amiji, chief executive of Dubai real estate consultancy Investment Boutique.

Besides luxury apartments and offices, the Burj will be home to a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

It’s also the centerpiece of a 500-acre development that officials hope will become a new central residential and commercial district in this sprawling and often disconnected city. It is flanked by dozens of smaller but brand-new skyscrapers and the Middle East’s largest shopping mall.

That layout – as the core of a lower-rise skyline – lets the Burj stand out prominently against the horizon. It is visible across dozens of miles of rolling sand dunes outside Dubai. From the air, the spire appears as an almost solitary, slender needle reaching high into the sky.

The Burj’s opening comes at a tough time for Dubai’s economy. Property prices in newer parts of the sheikdom have collapsed by nearly half over the past year.

The city-state turned to its richer neighbor Abu Dhabi for a series of bailouts totaling $25 billion in 2009 to help cover debts amassed by a network of state-linked companies. Burj developer Emaar is itself partly owned by the government, but is not among the companies known to have received emergency cash.

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