Dubai's answer to London Eye scrapped

Cancellation of 185m-high Ferris wheel is latest setback to Dubailand

The $68m wheel was intended to be taller than the London Eye (shown)
The $68m wheel was intended to be taller than the London Eye (shown)

Dubailand, the stalled real estate and tourism resort, has ditched plans to build a 185m Ferris wheel set to rival the London Eye in the latest setback to the troubled multibillion-dollar project.

The Great Dubai Wheel, an AED250m ($68m) observation wheel, was set to be a leading tourist attraction within Dubailand’s Arjan development, but was scrapped amid a wider revamp of the project.

“Originally the brochure said it was included,” said Ashok Galgotia, CEO of Triveni Builders and Promoters, the subcontractors that last week handed over the first units at Arjan.

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“But we were told [the Great Dubai Wheel] would not be coming and it would be something else. They are negotiating [to find a replacement] attraction.”

A planned open-air amphitheatre in the development was also unlikely to go ahead, he added.

A spokesperson for Dubai Properties Group, the developer behind Dubailand, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Dubailand was one of the Gulf emirate’s most ambitious developments, announced at the height of the real estate bubble. The resort was originally to be twice the size of Walt Disney World, and was reportedly worth AED335bn at its peak.

The project involved dozens of developers and sub-developers and was to feature seven themed areas, residential developments and what was planned to be the world’s largest shopping centre in Mall of Arabia.

But the development was placed on hold after the financial crisis triggered the collapse of Dubai’s real estate market in late-2008, wiping more than 60 percent off the value of homes.

DPG said in October it was in talks to renegotiate four projects in the mega-resort, which once boasted tie-ups with Universal Studios and Legoland, and expected to announce the new deals in the second or third quarter of 2012.

“We are in discussions with the others that have struggled during the crisis and that struggle was mostly related to the financial problems,” Khalid Al Malik, CEO of DPG, said.

“Now we are actually in serious negotiations to bring them back and assist… these projects to come back.”

The Great Dubai Wheel was given the green light in 2006, and was originally designed to include 30 transparent capsules offering views of up to 50km across Dubai.

The tourist attraction was to have been developed by the Great Wheel Corporation, a Singapore-based company with projects underway in Beijing, Orlando and Berlin.

The company no longer includes details of the Dubai wheel on its website, showing only a link dated 2007 that states ‘Dubai in progress’.

Business Monitor International in May 2011 warned that Dubailand should be scaled down significantly in order to fit in with the “harsh realities” of the emirate’s beleaguered real estate market.

“With….demand for new projects still weak, we believe a significant scaling down of Dubailand's ambitions is needed if it is to fit the economic realities facing Dubai in 2011,” the consultancy said.

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