x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Winter wonderland on Dubai’s World Islands: snow-lined streets for Heart of Europe

Work has started on The Heart of Europe, which spans six islands on Dubai's World Islands development and will capture the continent's inclement weather as well as its architecture and lifestyle.

The Heart of Europe islands will capture the essence of the continent, including its weather according to the developer. Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Heart of Europe islands will capture the essence of the continent, including its weather according to the developer. Courtesy Kleindienst Group

All-year-round sunshine is one of the attractions of living in Dubai for expatriates from the colder climes of Europe.

But reminders of the continent’s inclement weather will be captured in a new property development to form part of The World, the man-made island archipelago off the emirate’s coast.

Spanning six islands, The Heart of Europe will feature villas, hotels and marketplaces inspired by the architecture and lifestyle of Europe. But it will also include snow and rain-lashed streets, said Josef Kleindienst, the chief executive of Kleindienst Group, the property agent and developer behind the project.

The group said it would use “state-of-the-art German technology” to achieve the effect, without providing more details about how the innovation will work.

“Dubai is well known for its innovation, ambition, excitement and intrigue,” said Mr Kleindienst. “It is not afraid of dreaming big and this development is a perfect fit for the emirate.”

The developer said yesterday that contractors had been mobilised on the flagship project. Six hundred tonnes of materials and equipment had been dispatched from the mainland to the islands.

The first step of the construction process involves “vibro-compaction” of the islands, before the buildings are erected.

Building is anticipated to last until the end of 2016.

Conceived a decade ago, The World project has remained largely dormant since the global financial crisis in 2009 as investors put their projects on hold or cancelled them altogether. But as the emirate’s property market has picked up again, Nakheel, the master developer of the project, has reported a return in investor interest.

“Sales of The World have not happened over the past five years because of the global financial crisis and there remain concerns among potential investors about infrastructure and servicing,” said Craig Plumb, the head of research in the Middle East and North Africa at the property services company Jones Lang LaSalle.

In a bid to help to revive the project’s fortunes and improve access to the development, Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, another developer, in April suggested building a floating bridge to at least one of the islands.

But some investors still have questions about how basic services – such as power generation and rubbish collection – will work.

The Heart of Europe will include Mainland Europe, the largest of the islands and inspired by Austrian, Italian, Spanish, German and French architecture and heritage. The other islands will take inspiration from Monaco, Sweden, Switzerland, and Russia’s Saint Petersburg.

Kleindienst Group says it promises to offer visitors and holiday makers the “authentic charm” of each part of Europe. For example, Monaco will offer the “elegance and opulence of the French Riviera with its magnificient, contemporary villas and luxurious yachts”. Sweden will feature a central marketplace encompassing the tradition of Stockholm’s renowned Saluhall markets.

“This will be a truly unique vacation destination providing an authentic experience of some of Europe’s most charming and timeless features,” said Mr Kleindienst. “The six stunning islands will offer leading hotels for families and wedding parties, landscaped gardens, climate-controlled plazas, street performers, snow and rain-lined streets and much, much more.”

To date, Lebanon is the only island that has so far been developed commercially on The World. It is used for private corporate events and public parties. Originally launched in Austria and Hungary, Kleindienst Group expanded into the Arabian Gulf in 2003.

tarnold@thenational.ae