DUBAI // The world's largest Ferris wheel, the Dubai Eye, will be built off the coast after plans for a Dh6 billion entertainment project were approved today.
The Bluewaters Island project to be built near Jumeirah Beach Residence was tonight given the go-ahead by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
The developers Meraas Holding said the island, which will include the 210-metre Dubai Eye, is expected to attract more than three million visitors a year. The Ferris wheel alone will cost Dh1bn.
Construction of the Dubai Eye, which will surpass the 165-metre Singapore Flyer that was completed in 2008, is expected to start before June.
The two-phase island project is expected to be completed within three years.
The first, which includes the Dubai Eye, retail, residential, hospitality and entertainment zones, will be ready in two years.
Phase two is expected to be completed within 12 months later and will include low-rise residential buildings.
"The Dubai Eye will ... distinctively dominate the Dubai skyline," said Abdullah Al Habbai, chairman of Meraas Holding. "This project will continue to build on the emirate's reputation as a leader in the global entertainment and retail landscape."
Dubai Eye hopes to offer panoramic views of Dubai's coastline and landmarks such as the Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa.
The project will feature a souq, a promenade, restaurants and a food hall offering fresh produce, a five-star hotel and private homes, all of which will be connected by a monorail and a cable car.
The development will be connected to the mainland by a bridge from the Sheikh Zayed Road and a pedestrian bridge to the JBR beachfront.
The Bluewaters development is the latest in a series of projects announced by Sheikh Mohammed. Recent initiatives include the approval of a Dh10bn scheme to build five linked theme parks at Jebel Ali, and plans for Emaar and Dubai Holding to develop a Universal Studios theme park and the world's biggest shopping mall.
Market analysts are confident the new initiatives will take shape and boost tourism.
"Anything that continues to add to the diversity is a good thing," said Ian Albert, regional director of Colliers International. "In order to grow as a tourist destination, it is not the size but it is the ability to constantly bring something new to get people to return for the second, third and fourth time."
Matthew Green, head of Research UAE at CBRE Middle East, said: "There is clearly momentum in Dubai's real estate sector, with a notable return to development activity over the past 12 months.
"The recent announcement highlights a clear strategy from the Dubai Government to improve the emirate's tourism offer as it aims to be more competitive on the global tourism stage.
"This strategy will see the launch and completion of various new leisure drivers such as Bluewaters, which are aimed at widening the overall appeal of Dubai as a tourist destination, while also underpinning the long-term attractiveness of the emirate."
CBRE expects further announcements over the course of the year as local developers look to exploit improving market sentiment.
* additional reporting by Lucy Barnard