Unparalleled views and future potential are the draws to this neighbourhood near downtown Dubai, though residents say it is difficult to access and still missing many basic amenities, writes Jola Chudy
John Sherritt loves the view from his one-bedroom apartment on the 40th floor of the Executive Tower B. With an uninterrupted vista overlooking the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, it's the kind of selling point usually associated with prime, luxury real estate and, says Sherritt, the main reason he chose to move into Business Bay in February 2010.
"We're close to the major landmarks of downtown, which are a major attraction. I used to live in Old Town, so those benefits are the same - the restaurants, cinema, bars and The Dubai Mall. And because it's central, it's also quite convenient for my work."
Mark Coady from Australia agrees. "Business Bay is 10 minutes to virtually all the places that one needs." Apart from the traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, he says, the area is quiet.
"All the buildings are big and new. The views of the Burj Khalifia are pretty great. There are not too many buildings blocking the views and there are plenty of wide-open spaces."
Another positive, says Sherritt, a university sports activities officer, is the new Executive Towers residents' swimming pool - a long-awaited addition. "It was supposed to be built two months after we moved in," he explains. "But it's still the only one here. It gets very busy because it is shared by six towers, which means it's frequently too crowded. "
Sherritt's block is one of dozens in Business Bay that is only partially completed. The neighbourhood is set back from Sheikh Zayed Road and is an enclave with little traffic apart from those who live there or are visiting. Mature palm trees are enticingly dotted around some areas, and where work is nearing completion, the promise is evident. The site is reached via a warren of dirt tracks that can make access to and from the properties problematic.
"There are not really any roads," Coady says. "There have been around 15 towers in the area for two years and still we all madly drive around on single-lane dirt roads to get in and out. Everyone parks on the desert sand."
"It can sometimes take 10 minutes to get in and out," confirms Cindy Bailey, a magazine journalist who also moved into the area a year ago. "My apartment itself is lovely, but it takes 10 minutes to get an elevator. I used to be late for work because I couldn't get into the lift."
She agrees the neighbourhood is still very much a work in progress. Billboards around the site, erected by the developers Dubai Properties, carry the message "Built around you" in foot-high letters. They're not incorrect.
But as development progresses, a lot of promise already shows: a ground-floor parade of shops, waiting to be occupied, is a sign of the services and amenities to come.
For now, residents must venture out of the area for shopping and entertainment. "There are no supermarkets or shops in a 15-minute walking radius, only a small grocer and a beauty salon to service 15 towers," Coady says.
"At weekends, I might go to the beach in Jumeirah, and if I am there, I'll shop at the Choithrams on Al Wasl Road," says Bailey. "If I am staying closer to home, I'll go to Waitrose in The Dubai Mall. Sometimes I'll go to the souq, and maybe have lunch there. It's handy for shopping because it's close by."
Bailey, too, cites the impressive view her one-bedroom apartment offers as one of her favourite things about living in the neighbourhood, and says she entertains regularly on one of her two balconies.
"At weekends we will sit out and read and watch the fountains. People would pay a lot of money for this view."
The actual cost for Bailey was Dh72,000 for a one-year lease, signed in February 2010. Now, however, with one-bedroom apartments in the more established Old Town coming down in price, she feels the teething problems in Business Bay have helped her reach a decision about her future there.
"On balance, I think I will be looking for somewhere else when my lease expires. The roads still aren't finished, and you can't walk to any shops even if these had opened. When I moved in it was said the roads would be finished within two months, and that was nearly a year ago. There are still bulldozers and building work everywhere, and although the roads have improved, they are still not finished. Our gym is nowhere to be seen despite being nearly a year overdue.
"I think there is a sense of camaraderie in the neighbourhood but it's not for the right reasons," she adds. "People agree on the problems. When messages about things like washing the windows of the block are posted, people write sarcastic notes on them because everything takes so long and the windows haven't been washed for a year. It is a shame because when Business Bay is finally finished, I think it could look a bit like The Walk on JBR, with promenades of shopfronts and places to sit and eat."
What residents say
Beatrice Asenjo, Spain
It's still very new here; there are no coffee shops or restaurants yet. I think they are going to open some things like a laundry soon, from what I can see of the signs. Getting in and out is OK if you are coming by car, but for pedestrians the Metro is a bit further away, about 10 minutes on foot to the Burj Khalifa station.
Dana Khoury, Lebanon
This is a good area if you have a car and don't mind driving any time you need a bottle of water or some shopping. The rents have come down because it isn't finished, so more people are moving in, even though it isn't finished. I live here with my husband and daughter. There isn't anywhere for her to play, but we go to another friend's apartment who has a daughter, too. I have a few friends living here. It is good for work because it is near to Bur Dubai, about a 15-minute drive. At weekends we go for walks by the fountains around the mall.
One-bedroom apartments rent at about Dh50,000 per annum; two bedrooms go from Dh75,000, while a studio in Executive Towers rents from about Dh40,000.
The Old Town Nursery is accessible via a back road from Business Bay. The Gems Wellington School behind the Shangri-La hotel is reachable within 15 minutes. Dubai American Academy in Al Barsha Dubai College and Gems Wellington International in Al Sufouh are options for secondary schoolchildren.
Dubai Mall Medical Centre is within a 10-minute drive.
The Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall are a 20-minute walk away. Al Manzil Hotel in Old Town houses the Hayya Gym, which allows non-members to attend classes. Other nearby hotels include the Metropolitan, the Qamardeen and, on Sheikh Zayed Road, the Dusit, the Fairmont and the Crowne Plaza.