Abu Dhabi // The capital's ambition of becoming the region's leading cultural centre came a step closer yesterday when the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) invited construction firms to pre-qualify for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contract. Along with the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim, designed by the architect Frank Gehry, will form part of the cultural village on Saadiyat Island.
A shortlist is also expected to be finalised soon for the construction package for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Work is likely to go ahead next year on both projects, which will help Abu Dhabi to develop its tourism, with annual visitor levels forecast to reach 2.3 million by 2012. "You have to be more than just a theme park or beach type of place," said Robert McKinnon, the managing director of equity research at Al Mal Capital, an investment bank.
"What these museums should attract are travellers based in Asia and the Middle East. It's not really going to attract Europeans, who can go to Paris to visit the Louvre." The district will also include the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a performing arts centre and a maritime museum. Miles Payne, a partner at Strutt and Parker, a property consultancy based in Dubai, said the cultural projects would help Abu Dhabi to create a unique identity and grow socially. "They will make it a cultural centre, not only for the Middle East," he said.
"Having such projects, and the Formula 1, is only going to attract more investment, through tourism and businesses looking to take advantage of the facilities." Foundations work for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which has been designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel and will resemble a floating dome, began in July after the German firm Bauer was awarded the contract. With the main construction contract still to be awarded, it is not yet known when work on the main building will begin.
With work on the Guggenheim and Louvre projects likely to begin early next year, both should be ready to welcome visitors at a time when the world economy is likely to have recovered from the downturn, according to Nicholas Maclean, the managing director of the property consultant CB Richard Ellis's regional office. "The contract has been on the table for some time and if it's awarded by the end of the year, with let's say a two-year construction programme, the museum could be ready by 2011, by which time the world economy would have recovered a little," he said.
"The lower construction costs will also benefit the projects and allow the contractors to be more efficient." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org