x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Saadiyat's cultural district on track

Construction of the Louvre, Guggenheim and Sheikh Zayed National museums scheduled to start this year.

The complex of international art museums will be completed on schedule.
The complex of international art museums will be completed on schedule.

Saadiyat Island's cultural district is on track to be completed on time, with construction of the Louvre, Guggenheim and Sheikh Zayed National museums scheduled to start this year, the island's developers said yesterday. Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which manages the development of property assets held by the Government, said there were no delays in the progress of the district.

"Phase one of the project, which includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Zayed National museums, will be complete by 2013 to 2014 and construction is already underway," said Rita Aoun-Abdo, the art and cultural adviser at the TDIC. She said the museum buildings would be complete by 2012, with the openings of museums to place by the end of 2013 or the first quarter of 2014. "Once the construction is done we cannot move all the art at once into the site - it will take some time," said Ms Aoun-Abdo.

"And we are still not sure if we are going to open the Louvre and Guggenheim at the same time or two months apart." The 270 hectare cultural district, which occupies about 10 per cent of the island, is one of the emirate's anchor tourism attractions and is expected to attract 1.5 million visitors a year once fully completed by 2018, according to a 2006 study by the US-based strategy and technology consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton.

"This project is very important to us because it will help place Abu Dhabi as one of the major cultural hubs, in addition to creating thousands of jobs and attracting visitors from all over the world," Ms Aoun-Abdo said. As part of its five-year plan, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) aims to see 2.7 million guests a year visiting the capital's cultural offerings by 2012. "And that is why we cannot afford to delay these projects as they represent an integral part of the emirate's plan," Ms Aoun-Abdo said.

The second phase of the district, which will start by 2014, will include the construction of a maritime museum and a performing arts centre. While awaiting completion of the museums, the TDIC's cultural district team is planning how the art work will be arranged inside the buildings and deciding entry ticket fees. Asked about the total investment needed to complete the cultural district, Ms Aoun-Abdo declined to comment, apart from saying:

"Due to the economic conditions, these figures change every day, so it would be hard to say what it is right now." When the project was first announced in 2006, Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al Nahyan, the chairman of TDIC, said that the island was expected to attract investments of about Dh100 billion (US$27.22bn), while infrastructure costs would be about Dh5.5bn. This year, TDIC is planning to open a "visitor's experience centre" on the island to inform the public about the projects.

"Currently the island is closed to the public because it is still a construction site, but very soon we will be giving people tours and informing them about the attractions on the island, including the cultural district," said Ms Aoun-Abdo. The Saadiyat Bridge will open in September, linking the main island of Abu Dhabi to Saadiyat. Once complete, Saadiyat will be home to about 160,000 people and offer a wide range of leisure and tourism facilities.

The island will be developed around seven distinctive districts with 29 luxury hotels including Park Hyatt, Four Seasons and St Regis chain properties. "Although business tourism is what is going to support Abu Dhabi during the financial crisis, I believe that it is a good choice for the emirate to continue pressing on with the cultural attractions," said Alex Kyriakidis, the global managing partner of tourism, hospitality and leisure at Deloitte, an international consultant.