Abu Dhabi: The Pointe Planned on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, Great Dubai Wheel Canceled But The World’s Lebanon Island Opens

Despite warnings that Abu Dhabi’s housing market is going to dip soon, investment in Dubai seems to be slowly on the rise again.

Nakheel has announced that it’s starting construction on The Pointe, an $80 million new mixed-use development on the Palm Jumeirah islands. No timeline. (Construction Week Online)

Despite Dubai Properties Group canceling Dubailand’s Great Dubai Wheel (Hotelier Middle East), the World Island Beach Club just opened on the World’s “Lebanon island.” Though there’s literally no infrastructure, 70 percent of the islands have sold (The National and The Atlantic: Cities).

In positive sustainability news, Abu Dhabi property developer Aldar is partnering with Epic Green Solutions to reduce water use (Zawya), Bee’ah is introducing residential recycling in Sharjah (Khaleej Times) and Dubai is building a solar power plant
(The National).

Forthcoming recycling bins in Sharjah. / Photo via Khaleej Times.

Nationwide, the UAE is improving its customer service for government agencies, and last year established subsidized neighborhood food distribution centers and car transport for people with special needs (Gulf Today). Plus the UAE has the most branch campuses of any country in the world at 37, though new overseas campuses are trending to China and India (New York Times).

Elsewhere in the region…
Saudi Arabia is expanding its North-South Railway with a $600 million contract with Saudi firm Al Rashid. (Reuters) Atkins won a $100 billion contract to establish Doha, Qatar’s Central Planning Office to help plan billions in infrastructure projects (The National). BAM International is partnering with Jordanian firm MAG to build the new $65 million port in Aqaba, Jordan. (Port Technology)

The Qatari-funded “The Shard” supertall skyscraper in London is the last gasp of the heady “naughties” — big, bold and no look to the city’s past (Der Spiegel). New documentary “Zabaleen” profiles Cairo’s Coptic Christians who work informally to recycle 80 percent of the city’s waste (The Atlantic: Cities).

The Shard skyscraper looms over London. / Image via Der Spiegel.

Beyond the Middle East…
In the former USSR, Almaty, Kazakhstan has a new metro (The Atlantic: Cities) and “Russia by Rail” is NPR’s great travelogue of Trans-Siberian Railroad (NPR).

Incredible read on urban planning in Soweto, South Africa — is there any place in the world whose spatial divisions so completely reflect the racial segregation of the past 100 years? (Design Observer) Meanwhile, Cape Town is starting to figure out public space (Future Cape Town). Hopefully they can be helped by citizen cartographers, who are taking a greater stake in urban planning my mapping infrastructure (NYT).

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Abu Dhabi: New Recycling Plants, Food Imports to Spike, New Urbanist Capital District

Slow news week with Eid Al-Adha, but the biggest event was trade magazine Construction Week’s annual conference, this year’s topic was “Building Sustainability in the Middle East.” (Construction Week)

Raw material at Plastic recycling plant at Al Ain Compost plant. / Image via The National.

Abu Dhabi’s population is expected to triple in 20 years — “from 977,000 residents in 2008 to 1.2 million in 2013, 1.73 million in 2020 and 2.58 million in 2030.” That’s going to put an enormous strain on resources, especially water. One of the emirate’s largest developers, Aldar Properties, said that it’s trying to find ways to re-use greywater (domestic wastewater) and blackwater (sewage and industrial water). (Construction Week) The emirate’s first plastics and tires recycling plant recently opened, too. (The National)

Food is another challenge — the GCC imports an incredibly high 90 percent of its food, with the UAE having only 0.8 percent of its land for agriculture. The country’s food imports are predicted to increase 133 percent by 2020. (Abu Dhabi Week)

Substantial growth in food industry highlighted at SIAL Middle East as research shows UAE food imports rising 133 percent to $8.4 billion by 2020. / Image via ADW.

Construction projects are moving along — the city’s Capital District should lead the way in sustainable and new urbanist neighborhoods. (Construction Week) And Saadiyat Island’s luxury JZMK-designed gated community villas (are those necessary in crime-free Abu Dhabi?) are slated to be handed over from TDIC by the end of 2012. (Construction Week) Meanwhile, Eshraq and Khatib and Alami are turning a profit on Al Reem island projects. (Construction Week)

Elsewhere in the region…

Populous' John Barrow wants to use wind towers to create fan-like air inside the stadium. / Image via Stadia Magazine.

Frost and Sullivan predicts construction boom in Qatar over next 20 years. (Construction Week) Populous, who’s slated to build air conditioned stadia for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, now wonders if they be cooled with traditional wind towers? (Stadia Magazine)

Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is hosting a tent city of 3 million pilgrims for Hajj. (Atlantic Cities) … One writer loves Tehran, the “complicated” capital of Iran. (Atlantic Cities) … Match your skyscraper with its window washers. (Atlantic Cities)

Abu Dhabi: Improving road safety thru crackdowns on texting while driving, pedestrian crossings, contactless fare payments.

Driving safety has been a big theme lately — especially after the UAE-Baniyas football star Theyab Awana was killed in a car crash recently, which his father and friends are almost certain was caused by texting while driving. (The National)

Awana Ahmad Al Mosabi, left, has asked motorists not to use mobile devices such as BlackBerry smartphones while driving following the death of his talented footballer son. / Image via The National.

Hard to believe, but the UAE places in the Top 10 worldwide in the ignominious category of highest car crash (3rd) and traffic death rates (8th) in the world, and when RIM’s Blackberry network went down, accidents dropped by 40 percent in Abu Dhabi. (Wired)

So what is the UAE doing to improve this? The police say they’re cracking down on texting while driving, and it’s good to see that the Urban Planning Council is going to put streets on “road diets” to enhance pedestrian crossings. (Gulf News)

Increasing mass transit options will also decrease car use, and Abu Dhabi is expecting to see a five-fold increase in transit use over the next 20 years. As a result, they’re joining a growing list of global cities in offering contactless fare payment on buses (and I imagine the metro, trams and water taxis when they’re built), thanks to Xerox’s ACS company. The bus fleet is expected to triple to nearly 1,500 over the next two years. (Smart Card Alliance)

As the MTA’s video shows above, contactless fares would replace the dirham dropbox (bus fares are only AED 1-2, or $0.27-0.54; less with an Ojra card), and would speed up fare payment by simply tapping your debit card or a separate fare card like London’s Oyster card.

Shorter distances are expected to be easier too, as Al Ain is finishing up infrastructure improvements that included bike lanes. (Construction Week)

For longer distances, there are finally dates for the ambitious GCC rail network: construction is expected to start in 2014 and finish by 2017-2018. The rail line is also slated to go through Oman into Yemen. (Construction Week)

Elsewhere in the region…
Doha, Qatar’s metro will be 212 km (130 mi) long, triple the length of Dubai’s metro and nearly as long as New York’s, and is expected to be completed by 2020 and in time for the 2022 World Cup. (Construction Week)

Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is partnering with the Seychelles to develop the master plan of its capital Victoria. (Seychelles Nation) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will make the master plan for Oman’s Duqm City. (Oman Observer)

Oman awarded the contracts to Turner and Townsend to expand the Muscat and Salalah airports. (Construction Week)

Could the UAE really be waste-free by 2015? Recycling bins in Sharjah are a start. (Construction Week) Liquid of Life is also helping improve water filtration efforts to cut down on bottled water. (AME Info)

Waldorf Astoria is planning its $272 million new hotel on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah islands, while Hilton Worldwide has 40 hotels in the MENA pipeline, including two new ones in Beirut. (Construction Week)