Stunning views and a pedestrian lifestyle are attracting residents to this corner of Dubai Marina.
Why live in: Marina Towers
Though this rapidly changing section of Dubai Marina is still under development, residents say the views and convenient pedestrian lifestyle make it a desirable location, writes Matt Hryciw
The sun is hanging low in the Saturday afternoon sky as glassy new towers cast long shadows across Dubai Marina. After months of scorching summer heat that have kept most residents off the picturesque walkway that circles the water, Derek Bell and his wife, Chris, pass the occasional jogger and couples walking their dogs on their late-day stroll.
The pair gaze up from the new brick footpath at the shiny glass-and-steel apartments that tower over a dusty vacant lot, the wake from a passing yacht laps at the seawall behind them near Park Island, a group of four recently completed towers that back onto a new paved section of the broad waterfront promenade.
With a camera around his neck, Derek could be mistaken for a tourist in his own neighbourhood, taking in the views of futuristic skyscrapers that circle the man-made lagoon. The two pause to contemplate taking a photo, looking at their flat high up in the Dusit Residence tower they have called home for the past year since moving here for work from the UK.
"This is the first time we've walked along here," Derek says. "We've done the other side often enough so we thought just for a change we'd see how far we could get by walking down here."
In a way, many people who call the Marina Towers neighbourhood home are tourists in their own backyard. Surrounded by the waters of the Marina on three sides and just across the road from the north end of Jumeirah Beach Residence, this is very much an area still coming into its own as new storefronts and luxury condominiums continue to pop up.
Until recently, the Royal Meridien, Habtoor Grand and Grosvenor House hotels outnumbered finished apartment blocks in what has become an overwhelming expatriate residential area especially popular with young couples and western professionals.
In the year that the Bells have called the Dusit Residence home, they have seen the neighbourhood evolve. Supermarkets and restaurants have come and gone along the waterfront, but on the whole, the place seems to feel a little more finished, more alive.
"As the place gets more developed and as more places open, it gets a bit more of a vibrant feel to it. This side of the Marina isn't as developed as the other side, and the more businesses that open, the more life-like it becomes."
In the past few months, the Marinaside walkway between the Dusit and Grosvenor House hotels has come to life with the opening of an Iranian and a Lebanese restaurant. The cafes add an extra buzz to the already busy Piccolo Mondo Bay, City Port Cafe and Bonjour Bonjour, all of which have sprawling patios busy with friends and families catching up over shisha and snacks.
The sunset view past bobbing yachts across the water to the towers of Marina Walk is breathtaking.
Development in other parts of the area, however, seems to have stalled, leaving a gap-toothed feel to what will eventually be a continuous stretch of waterfront activity. Farther south past the bridge that connects the two sides of the Marina, a large empty lot lies behind weathered metal hoarding, with parking for labourers' buses, and the movement of heavy equipment the only real activity. Just across the street looms a gaping hole where excavation for a new tower finished recently, and construction noise is never far off. Farther on, an abandoned construction pit sits full of a dozen whirring pumps keeping the Marina out of what one day will be underground parking.
"It's actually not as bad as we thought," Derek says. "We'd prepared ourselves for noise when we moved in as we figured there'd be quite a bit of disruption. It's no big deal. You can't hear much once you're in the apartment itself. Sometimes there's a bit of a holdup with grinders and diggers and so forth."
Julia Fenemore, also from the UK, has lived in this part of the Marina for four years and has seen more dramatic changes. She now has a bigger area to walk her dog right on the doorstep of Marina Tower where she lives, and appreciates the Marina's shops and growing pedestrian lifestyle.
"The views from my balcony are great and I love the convenience. You can do a lot of walking here. When I first moved in there was no walking whatsoever. You can walk over to JBR, to Marina Walk, and even Media City - places like that are quite close."
But she says the popularity of the nearby beach and restaurants at The Walk at JBR can make transport around Marina Towers tough.
"JBR's a nightmare at the weekends. The traffic literally getting in and out is a nightmare so we try to avoid it at weekends. Taxi drivers won't take you there either because you're stuck in traffic."
Mukesh Raturi from India is the manager at the Noodle Room restaurant on the corner of JBR at the edge of Marina Towers. While the attractions of The Walk next door help bring people to the area, he says the traffic doesn't always translate to big sales.
"JBR is good for tourists, even people who come from Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and other places. It's good for people to see the nice view on the back side. But there is not a lot of business on this side - there are more people just looking around than people coming into the restaurant to have a meal."
The bustle of nearby areas can be a double-edged sword; with new businesses and residents comes traffic snarls but also an urban vibrancy.
Gordana Vukcevic owns a coffee shop in Dubai but is returning home to Serbia soon. She lives in Park Island and looks out over the street, JBR and the sea beyond.
"I like noise. I like the sounds of the city. I used to live in the Springs, and it's like living in a little village. No lights, no sounds, nothing. It's like a cemetery. Here, JBR is just across the street, it's a good area and you can walk to the beach."
Vukcevic plans to keep her apartment after she leaves and rent it out. "I love this country."
At weekends the area is busy with sports cars and motorcycles as people come to show off their machines along The Walk nearby, but Chris Bell says she and Derek aren't bothered by the revving engines that echo between the towers. In fact, the Bells are in no rush to leave.
"We had a one-year lease on the apartment which we've just renewed, so I guess that speaks volumes," Derek says. "Even after being here a year, we figure that it's a nice area to be in."