DUBAI // The Al Barari property development is a hive of activity, bucking the trend in Dubailand where most projects have either slowed or stopped because of the global economic crisis. More than 3,000 construction labourers are at work on Al Barari, which also has a greenhouse producing nearly one million plants every four months. "It turns out we were lucky that we didn't cater to speculators," said Mohammed Zaal, the chief operating officer of the project. "We have clients even volunteering right now to pay their completion payments before they are due." Mr Zaal, whose family is developing the Dh15 billion (US$4.08bn) project in two phases, said the company was focusing on building homes that would be unrivalled in the Emirates. "People come to us because they want palaces," he said. The villas range from 12,000 square feet (sq ft) to 35,000 sq ft, and cost between Dh28 million and Dh100m. But the effects of the downturn have been felt. The original plan for 330 villas was reduced to 287 as sales slowed last year. About 75 per cent of the villas are sold. "These are challenging times," Mr Zaal said. "No one can deny it is happening, but we are focusing on this project. It's been in the works for 10 years and we are close to making our dream a reality. That's why we are surviving in this market." Mr Zaal said the development would start turning over five villas a week from June 1 to Sept 1, and start phase two of the project by the end of the year. The most distinctive thing about Al Barari, which means "the wilderness" in Arabic, is its greenery. Several vast greenhouses at the site are producing enough plants to cover the development with gardens and dense vegetation at each home. The family boast that they have introduced 800 species that have never been grown in the Middle East before, including a tall palm tree called a Bismarckia nobilis, or the Bismarck fan palm that is native to Madagascar, and other plants from around the world. About Dh1.4bn is being spent on plants alone. There are also plans for a 14.6km system of waterways that will flow throughout the 130-hectare development. The water will add to the quality of life and filter used water to irrigate the plants. Al Barari will also have 34 themed botanical gardens. After the entire development is finished, the greenhouse will begin selling plants to the wider Dubai market. Over four months this winter, the greenhouses produced 971,790 "cuttings", which are branches and stems that can grow into full-sized plants with assistance from the gardeners. The Dubai Government has pledged to begin adding 8 per cent more green space each year. The Zaal family owns three plant-related businesses. Greenworks runs the greenhouses and imports plants, while Second Nature designs landscaping. Sustainable Earth, the third, constructs the landscaping and maintains it. The family also recently created Wojood Facilities Management as an option for residents to hire for the maintenance of commonly owned spaces. firstname.lastname@example.org
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