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If you've ever wondered whether the fragmented construction sites across Business Bay and Safa Park were somehow connected, you were right. The Dubai Water Canal is literally paving the way for 800 million cubic metres of water to flow every year from the end of the creek near JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, through Shaikh Zayed Road and into the sea in Jumeirah.
But the million-dollar question is: how will the Dh2-billion project affect the surrounding properties, areas and infrastructure in the short and long run?
Creating a 3.2km-long waterway across the desert may have been a pleasant daydream for some Bedouin ancestors, and if it were, that dream is being realised today.
So enormous is the scale of the Dubai Water Canal project that it needed to be divided among multiple contractors and into three phases; the first two involve the building of bridges and the third comprises the drilling of the canal and construction of a sea wall for the beach.
The canal will be six metres deep and 80-120 metres wide, while bridges over it will be 8.5 metres above the water level to allow boats to pass underneath. The project will result in Shaikh Zayed Road eventually being elevated to allow for the extension of the canal to the other side.
With such extraordinarily massive plans, disruptions are naturally expected, as witnessed in the continuous traffic diversions and road closures. Already 12 lanes of Shaikh Zayed Road — one of Dubai's busiest — have been temporarily shifted and a considerable portion of Safa Park will soon be replaced by the canal. To what extent, though, will these disruptions affect the property market in the near term? Given that the target year for completion is 2017, rental yields are likely to be hit by the related construction as tenants avoid the areas of Business Bay and Jumeirah over the next two years.
Investors with a longer-term view, however, will see that beyond 2017, affected areas that are torn apart today will be almost unrecognisable.
Such visionary minds will be able to see through the dust and instead picture boats serenely drifting along the water canal, surrounded by a thriving lifestyle that includes waterfront houses, hotels, walkways, cycling paths and hundreds of new shops and restaurants.
Moreover, the gallons of water gushing through the canal are expected to have a cooling effect similar to the Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, South Korea, which has lowered the temperature in its vicinity by 3.6 degrees Celsius compared to other parts of the city.
Let's look at the starting point of the new canal. Al Habtoor City will undoubtedly dominate Business Bay, incorporating more than 3,000 residential units and hotels, including St Regis Dubai, W Dubai and the Westin Shaikh Zayed Road.
Located adjacent to the Dubai Water Canal and targeting the same completion date, Al Habtoor's Dh11-billion hospitality development will also feature a permanent water-themed production by Cirque du Soleil theatrical director Franco Dragone — the only one between Las Vegas and Macau.
Going further towards the intersection with Shaikh Zayed Road, the Canal Gate Tower will be built to connect the waterway to a shopping mall with retail, food and beverage and entertainment venues. The mixed-use development will comprise 468 apartments, 470 serviced apartments and 617 hotel rooms, as well as 400,000 sq ft of retail and 735,000 sq ft of commercial office spaces. Needless to say, these premises will benefit from outstanding views and an enviable address.
When the canal finally reaches the sea, it will emerge in a newly designed Jumeirah Beach Park that is double in length, offering more room for beachfront activities. Known as The Crescent, the peninsula at the mouth of the canal will include a marina with moorings for 120 boats, besides a 925-room hotel and 1,383 residential units.
Meanwhile, the four planned marine transit stations are envisioned to enhance the role of marine transport, particularly after the completion of several island projects, such as The World and Jumeirah 2. A regular means of transport to the shore can only increase the appeal of property ownership in those offshore developments.
Moreover, the canal will eventually connect with the magnificent, recently opened 14km-long Jumeirah Corniche. Who wouldn't want to own a waterfront villa with its own space to moor a yacht or sailing boat and miles of beachfront round the corner? And who wouldn't be enticed by the thought of seeing both the blue lagoons and the Shaikh Zayed Road skyline from their windows?
Indeed, the project spells a major transformation for the emirate, generating new business and providing existing properties with improved views and better neighbourhoods.
As for retail opportunities, the sky is the limit. Whether it's a floating restaurant or hotel, a department store in the new Canal Gate Tower, or a shop in Habtoor Palace's shopping arcade, options will be plenty. Dozens of retail units are already being built along Al Wasl Road in anticipation of the new developments in Jumeirah.
A premium remains for waterfront locations. Dubai Creek Harbour's recently launched towers, for instance, received a tremendous response, including from international investors, according to Emaar Properties.
With rates ranging from Dh1,700 to Dh1,800 per square foot, the units promise spectacular views of the creek and Dubai skyline.
While the first phase of the water canal project started in September 2013 and is being carried out by Turkish construction giants Mapa and Gunal, the second phase began last May with the contracting of China State Corporation.
The third and final phase was awarded to Belhasa Six Construct and started in June.
Dubai is clearly re-situating the heart of living from within the city centres to around waterfront projects, and we may very well see more than the six million passengers that the Roads and Transport Authority expects to attract to the canal every year.
Get a glimpse on the expansion at Dubai World Central airport which is gaining speed
Source: Niraj Masand, Special to Property Weekly
The writer is Director at Banke International Properties LLC, a boutique real estate brokerage based in Dubai. He has extensive experience, having worked for some of the most prestigious property companies and developers in Dubai