Development Begins on Man-Made Island in Qatar

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorDoha, Qatar—The first of three phases of the $2.5 billion, 14 million-sq.-ft. Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island off the coast of Doha, Qatar, has opened its first five parcels. Phase one, known as Porto Arabia, will include 31 towers with 4,700 residential units, 450 townhomes and low-rise apartments, one million sq. ft. of retail and commercial space, 6,378 parking spaces and a 700-berth marina. At completion, which is slated for the end of 2009, Porto Arabia will include 18 parcels of land.Seattle-based Callison served as the master planner for the entire site, as well as urban planner, architect, interior design and environmental graphic designer for Porto Arabia—designed to be the most urban of all the phases. United Development Company, a private-sector shareholding company in Qatar, is developing the entire site, which is slated for completion in 2011.“The idea behind this [master plan], originally, was a combination of targeting the Arab states and also to try to draw people to Qatar and buy land here,” Tina Cantwell, associate principal at Callison and a project designer for the Pearl-Qatar, tells MHN. The developers, she says “wanted to capture some of the market that Dubai is capturing.” Much of the target market for the development is European buyers.Designed with the idea of an Arabic Riviera in mind, “when we started master planning the layout, we had this idea of each district recalling the traditional Mediterranean port cities,” explains Cantwell. Porto Arabia’s horseshoe-shaped boardwalk links five retail districts—Fanar Croisette, Piazza Arabia, The Marketplace, Croisette Promenade, Ras Croisette—each with its own distinct feel. For example, district one, Cantwell says, has more of a “Venetian flavor,” whereas the third district has a more “modern-day, marketplace feel. Styles came from Mediterranean Europe but as [always happens] when you’re settled in a place, you have layers that come from the location you’re in—in this case it was Arabic,”  Cantwell notes.Cantwell notes that an island train will link all of the towers together, in addition to taxis that will bring pedestrians to various parcels and water taxis that will connect the various elements of the island.Callison had an 18-month timeline to complete all design phases of the project. Since completion of the design, the development value has increased 85 percent. In the Middle East, Cantwell explains, there has been an increasing amount of building and infrastructure being put in place, which is starting to catch up with developers in Dubai, causing development values to decrease. When the design for the Pearl-Qatar began, however, Cantwell notes that it attracted a great deal of interest and developers purchased entire towers.