After a few false starts and numerous delays, today marks the grand opening of the world’s tallest manmade structure, the $4 billion Burj Dubai.
The Burj Dubai is believed to top 2,684 feet, while the tallest building in America, the iconic Sears (ok, Willis) Tower stands 1,450 feet tall (minus its broadcasting mast). The final height of the tower is still an open point of discussion, but without question it now eclipses the next-tallest tower, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, by at least 1,000 feet.The 160-story skyscraper, built by Dubai-based Emaar Properties, the Middle East’s largest developer, features 220,000 sq. ft. of offices, the world’s first Giorgio Armani Hotel with 160 rooms, four swimming pools, a cigar club, a library, spas and an observation platform on the 124th floor. It also features 1,000 residential units including 144 apartments in the Armani Residences. Condominiums in the tower have fetched up to $3.5 million.
When fully occupied, the Burj Dubai will be home to an estimated 35,000 people and include 54 elevators.
Just when that will be remains a question mark, as the building’s opening comes amid a property crisis in this once prosperous country. Dubai, one of the seven members of the UAE federation, has outstanding debt of $80 billion, mainly due to a hyper-drive expansion of its property, luxury retail, tourism, logistics, and financial services sectors.
Recently the emirate has been struggling to raise enough money to pay its ongoing obligations, thanks largely to a deep and prolonged property slump. Earlier this year the city/state raised $10 billion from the UAE central bank and is considering floating another $10 billion bond offering this month. Last month, neighboring Abu Dhabi agreed to help bail out Dubai’s debts, but any final solution to the continuing debt problems is some time away.
Despite the downturn, the Burj Dubai has continued as a symbol of the area’s once high-flying wealth. Designed by Chicago-based starchitect Adrian Smith, it stands as the centerpiece of Emaar’s $20 billion, 500-acre downtown development near Dubai’s main business district.
Construction on the Burj Dubai started on September 21, 2004 . In February 2007 it surpassed the Sears (sorry, Willis) Tower in Chicago with the most floors. It officially became the tallest building in the world in July 21, 2007, when it usurped the Taipei 101.