World's tallest building, Burj Dubai, set to open in UAE

The world's tallest building opened in Dubai on Jan. 4, 2010, in the midst of a deep financial crisis. The Burj Khalifa tower -- named in a nod to the leader of neighboring Abu Dhabi -- is more than twice the height of New York's Empire State Building's roof.
Map locates Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Site of the world's tallest building.
By Simeon Kerr
Monday, January 4, 2010

Dubai is set to open the world's tallest building Monday as the city seeks to revitalize its economy after a debt crisis in 2009 that forced the once-hot financial center to turn to neighboring Abu Dhabi for help.

The government hopes the unveiling of the 160-plus-story structure, Burj Dubai, will pierce the cloud that has lingered over Dubai since mid-December, when it received a second $10 billon bailout loan from Abu Dhabi, after unpaid bills prompted some creditors to abandon Dubai.

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, after navigating the worst crisis in his four years as ruler of Dubai, will lead a day of celebrations for the unveiling of the residential, hotel and office building that on a clear day has views across the Persian Gulf to Iran.

About 90 percent of units have been sold in Burj Dubai, which will welcome the first occupants of the Giorgio Armani residences in February and will open the world's first Armani Hotel in March.

Prices in the skyscraper -- which formed the apex of the Dubai property market when the one-to-three-bedroom residences were launched in 2007 -- have held up amid the 50 percent crash across the rest of the city, including the surrounding developments of Downtown Burj Dubai.

For Dubai's defenders, Burj Dubai, developed by the partially government-owned Emaar Properties, is an engineering marvel representing the pinnacle of Dubai's evolution from fishing village to metropolis; for critics, it is a stark reminder of the commercial hub's excesses.

Roy Cherry, an analyst with Shuaa Capital in Dubai, says the truth lies somewhere in between. "It is a fantastic building and a great achievement for Emaar, but Dubai's dreams and challenges remain greater than any one building."

Last month's bailout loan eased default concerns, but Dubai's reputation as a global financial center remains tarnished after the sloppy restructuring of Dubai World, the government-owned investment company, which was $22 billion in debt when it went bankrupt last year.

Economists say Dubai has fallen into a painful recession after years of 15 percent growth came to a halt as the real estate bubble burst. But some sectors of the economy continue to grow, and Dubai remains attractive as a services hub for the affluent Persian Gulf region.

As the region's prospects brighten with rising oil prices, Emaar -- which has retained 10 percent of the building's units for sale in the coming months -- is betting that Dubai's infrastructure, epitomized by Burj Dubai and the newly opened Metro, will allow it to ride a recovery and shake off its debt woes.

-- Financial Times

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