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Taking Jebel Ali to the limit

The Galleries, Downtown Jebel Ali

The Galleries

Dan McAlister tours The Galleries; a mixed use development by Dubai-based Limitless, that forms part of the 6.5 million sqm Downtown Jebel Ali

“We have approximately 8000 square feet of commercial and retail area spread over four identical buildings. We are trying to achieve a business hub in this area for the large multinational companies that want to create regional offices to service the whole region,” says Bahaa Abouhatab head of UAE projects for Limitless.

We’re sitting in the sunshine outside Oregano café; the outside seating area holds the fountains in the Jebel Ali Galleries complex and it feels that if this place is to catch on it could be something else. Time will tell if this will be the case.

To date multinationals including Craft, Ericson, Dubai World, Apollo Tyres, Nikon, Dycon, China National Petroleum and Siemens, have already signed up to have their head offices here, according to Abouhatab.

Combined, these tenants contribute to the near 75% occupancy of office and retail facilities announced October 2011.

One element of the 6.5 million square metre Downtown Jebel Ali, The Galleries forms a large part of the first phase – known as zone 1

– featuring eight of the first 13 buildings.

The project is located between Jebel Ali Free Zone and Techno Park on a 11km stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai.

Divided into four zones, each has three districts; the business and entertainment hub Urban Centre; the Trellis District, with midrise buildings, shaded sidewalks, parks and plazas; and Medina, featuring Arabian inspired courtyards and cobbled streets.

Now five years into the project, phase two is waiting for residents to move in and three and four are on their way.

“Limitless is working on a strategy to finish the second phase. It’s not clear yet but it’s a combination between residential and office space so it’s mixed use. When it comes to the zone almost 90% of the plots are sold to individuals or developers.

“Today we have twin towers that are under construction by Damac. They are estimating it should finish sometime during the third quarter of this year,” he says, adding that currently the focus is on completing the first phase to encourage more companies to establish offices there.

In zone one, construction is complete or underway on 13 buildings, including eight at The Galleries. Of those eight buildings, currently five plots are under construction by third party developers with three more developers currently finalising design plans; the buildings comprise six office and two residential towers.

Upon completion, the entire development will feature 326 buildings – 237 of which will be residential. The development is being built at an estimated cost of US $13 billion (AED47.7bn).

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The Galleries’ social centre is a 20,000 square metre landscaped plaza; as big as three international football pitches placed end to end. It features 14,000 square metres of granite, and saves 4000 gallons of water each day through eco-friendly irrigation and cooling systems.

The focal point of the plaza is a 300 seat amphitheatre with a 105 square metre screen – to be housed in a steel structure the size of a tennis court. The amphitheatre will form a venue for cultural, arts and social events and is surrounded by 200 trees, lawns, fountains, pools and shaded spots for relaxation.

Limitless has also completed the construction of a 300 metre, tree-lined, shaded walkway connecting the Jebel Ali Metro station to The Galleries at Downtown Jebel Ali.

The company hopes to encourage walking and the use of public transport at its developments and reflects The Galleries’ overall theme of shaded, walkable areas for tenants and residents.

On April 18 last year, they held their own metro day for employees. Around one third of the 3000 people who work within The Galleries’ commercial buildings, use Dubai Metro for their daily commute.

In addition, many corporate tenants at The Galleries, notably Siemens, Arup and Kraft, encourage their staff with incentives to travel by metro instead of by car.

The company says the plaza encourages walking through its stair system. They are heavily promoting the use of the metro as the Jebel Ali station is close to the complex and has a shaded walkway which has been installed to accommodate workers by Limitless.

Even the two underground car parks meet international environmental health and safety standards for base ventilation, access and fire escape routes. The basement level is equipped with two speed jet fans that can be monitored and controlled from the Building Management System (BMS). These jet fans are on during summer to increase air circulation.

The car parks include two basement levels and two podium levels, covering a total of 90,000 sq metres. The two underground levels cover 62,000 square metres and span the entire length and width of the development.

They have been designed for optimum accessibility to the buildings and efficient circulation.

Major road, seaport and metro line converge is within easy reach of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Also the soon to be completed Al Maktoum Airport will be handy for business and workers in the area.

Finally we are given a look at one of the developments being worked on by Damac. It should be ready next year.

Money may have slowed the building process down but here’s hoping The Galleries will be all set and good to go soon and be around for many years to come.

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