Limitless, the Dubai World-owned property developer, expects construction on at least half of the plots of land that make up the first phase of Downtown Jebel Ali in Dubai to begin by the end of the year. About 250 plots were sold to subdevelopers across the sprawling project, which was launched in late 2006, before the downturn hit the property sector and bank lending was curtailed.
Progress has been slow, with work started recently on just five of the 38 plots sold in zone one. The hold-up is partly due to subdevelopers revising their designs for the slower market conditions, such as reducing the size of planned apartments. Meanwhile, Limitless has revised schedules for land payment. "By the end of 2010, 50 per cent of the plots in zone one will be under construction," said Salah Ameen, the executive director for Limitless in the Middle East.
Limitless has also postponed plans for a light-rail system, which was intended to connect the four zones, until more developers have started building. "This is something we're still committed to but, at the end of the day, it depends on occupancy and how many plots are being developed," Mr Ameen said. "It's the third-party developers' role to develop their plots ? our role is to provide infrastructure."
In February, The National reported that Limitless was seeking a payment delay and a new payment schedule with contractors, including Japan's Taisei, at Downtown Jebel Ali. A month later, Dubai World said the developer would not be part of its US$24.8 billion (Dh91.08bn) debt restructuring, with the Dubai Government saying the company "did not require government support". Limitless, which was set up mainly to develop projects overseas, was also granted an extra 90 days to repay a $1.2bn Islamic loan that was due on March 30.
Mr Ameen added that about 80 per cent of the infrastructure work on the first zone of Downtown Jebel Ali had been completed, with contractors being invited to bid by the end of next month for the construction of a mosque with a capacity of 500 worshippers. Limitless is developing about 30 plots at the development, which stretches across 11km, including The Galleries, an eight-building mix of office space and apartments.
The four office towers at The Galleries are open, with about half of the buildings occupied, while 330 residential units will be ready by early next year. Limitless opened the landscaped plaza area, which includes an amphitheatre, last Wednesday. Downtown Jebel Ali, once budgeted at $19bn, is the only Limitless project that is progressing in Dubai. While groundwork started on the $11bn Arabian Canal in the middle of 2008, the project was later shelved.