MILAN — Despite Dubai’s recent financial woes and estimated debts of $80 million, the Burj Khalifa tower, widely advertised as the world’s tallest building,opened on Monday. Giorgio Armani SpA said the company’s first hotel, which will be located in the tower, will be officially unveiled in Dubai on March 18, marking the designer’s hotellerie debut in collaboration with real estate firm Emaar Properties PJSC.
Standing at 2,625 feet and 160 stories, the tower, also developed by Emaar, was unveiled with a major celebration of fireworks and in the presence of the city’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The tower is surrounded by a 27-acre park and counts 3,000 underground parking spaces, according to the Burj site. Completion of the Burj tower was originally projected to be in late 2008.
Armani’s 432,000-square-foot hotel, furnished with his Casa line, will comprise 160 guest rooms and suites and 144 private residences.
Online bookings for the hotel will be available from later this month.
The Dubai financial and real estate markets have been suffering for over a year, and the city’s troubles have been making headlines since the end of November, after its chief investment vehicle, Dubai World, asked its lenders for a six-month freeze on repayments of a $59 billion debt pile, creating panic over potential repercussions on European banks. United Arab Emirates neighbor Abu Dhabi has since allowed Dubai World some breathing space by bestowing a $10 billion loan. Dubai, which has no natural resources and relies primarily on real estate investment and tourism, started showing signs of a slowdown in 2008, causing delays in many Italian fashion houses’ projects throughout the city.
The opening of Armani’s first hotel was pushed back to 2010 from the slated date of September 2009. Palazzo Versace also did not open in 2009, as was originally planned, and is due to open this year.
As per the agreement between Armani and Emaar, which was first unveiled in 2004, a second Armani hotel will open in Milan next year and at least 10 hotels and resorts are to be expected within the next 10 years.
Other properties under way include the first Armani Resort, planned for Marrakech, and the first Armani Residences villas in Marassi, Egypt. New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and London have also been earmarked as future locations.
Emaar’s sales and property prices have been impacted by the industry’s slowdown. In 2008, Emaar recorded a 15 percent drop in net operating profits to 5.57 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams, or $1.52 billion at average exchange, on a 10 percent drop in annual sales to 16 billion dirhams, or $4.35 billion, compared with 2007.
The real estate giant has also opened the 5.6 million-square-foot shopping and entertainment destination Dubai Mall, which boasts stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. In Saudi Arabia, Emaar is developing King Abdullah Economic City, which will feature a port,business, industrial, educational and resort districts and a residential area. The company holds a 30 percent equity stake in Dubai Bank, focused on retail and commercial banking. Dubai World’s Istithmar unit also owns Barneys New York.
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