International briefs

Saudi Arabian tower poised to become world’s tallest

Plans are underway at Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the latest contender for the world’s tallest building. The tower is designed to be 1,001 meters, about 173 meters, or 568 feet, taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the current record holder, which opened earlier this year. Contractors are now bidding for the right to build the skyscraper, according to the National, an English-language publication in the Middle East. The project, which has been in the works for several years, is being developed by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Bidders include Six Construct, a Belgian company that worked on the Burj Khalifa, and its Saudi partner, El Seif Engineering Contracting; Australia’s Multiplex Construction; and Saudi BinLadin Group, one of the biggest construction companies in the region, which was founded by Sheikh Mohammed bin Laden Sayyid, the father of Osama bin Laden. If built according to the current plan, Kingdom Tower would move past Burj Khalifa, but still faces competition for the “world’s tallest” title — the Burj Mubarak Al Kabir in Kuwait is also planned for 1,001 meters, while the Murjan Tower in Bahrain is slotted for 1,022 meters, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Property market expected to remain weak in Dubai

The Dubai skyline

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Dubai’s lagging property market is still at least two years away from recovery, analysts predicted last month during Cityscape Global, the region’s largest property convention, the International Property Journal reported. According to Jones Lang LaSalle, all sectors of the Dubai market are in the downturn phase of the cycle, with the likelihood of continued drops in average prices and rentals through the rest of the year. Another 9,000 residential units are expected to come online in Dubai in the next year. “Even if these are not completed and handed over in time, Dubai’s residential market continues to be oversupplied, and prices are not expected to recover before the second half of 2011 at the earliest,” JLL said. Prices will likely also remain low due to an abundance of space and weak demand from foreign investors. Chris Waight, associate director of property consultant Cluttons in Dubai, was more optimistic, though he too predicted a two-year gap before recovery. “As long as the property supply doesn’t surpass the demand too much, we should see a stabilization of Dubai’s residential property prices within the next two to three years,” he said.

Luxury units hot in Berlin

The Reichstag in Berlin.

One of the fastest-growing segments of new housing in Berlin is luxury residences, according to a study by property research group BulwienGesa AG. There are currently 205 luxury apartments under construction in Berlin, half of which are being built in Berlin Mitte, the central district that houses Germany’s government and parliament, the Reichstag and other major tourist attractions. “On an international scale, Berlin is very inexpensive,” Thomas Wolfensberger, CEO and founding investor of Peach Property Group AG, a Zurich-based company, told the Wall Street Journal. “The East is the place where Berlin is reinventing itself, where you can become part of history and build on a historic site.” One major luxury project underway is Yoo, a mixed-use property being developed by Peach Property and designed by architect Eike Becker. Yoo Berlin is a 10-story, glass-covered building with luxury apartments overlooking the Spree River. Prices range from $520 to $1,265 per square foot.