"Hey Taipei, mine's bigger than yours!"
The Burj Khalifa opens today, and I’ve got no doubt it will open to great pomp and fanfare. I’m half-expecting to hear that the new building, besides just replacing Taipei 101 as the tallest skyscraper in the World, has a pool made out of unicorn horns or something equally ridiculous.
Like the Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa is intended to “put Dubai on the map” as an international destination and financial center of the Middle East. However, I can’t help but wonder if the completion of the Burj Khalifa actually helps or hurts Dubai from a public relations standpoint. When I was in Dubai, my visceral reaction to the building was that it is the coolest, most unnecessary thing Dubai could have added to their landscape.
First, it’s not as if Dubai didn’t have enough attractions and oddities. The Burj Khalifa follows many other attractions such as the aforementioned Burj Al Arab, the sailboat-shaped hotel built on an island just off the Dubai shoreline, the “Leap of Faith” at the Atlantis hotel, and of course, snow skiing at the Mall of the Emirates! And as far as the United States goes (and wherever else the show is broadcast), having the ‘Amazing Race’ television show visit Dubai did more to promote the country for FAR less money.
Second, opulence isn’t the standard of the day, business or personal. With the current economic depression, what business is looking for $4000/sq. ft office space? Dubai is still a fun party town (for the Middle East), but somehow I don’t see how the Burj Khalifa offers a desirable living situation…who’s the market, people who can’t afford to put a house on the Palm Islands? Outside of the shopping, I didn’t see a whole lot that would make you want to stay for more than a week or so. Coincidentally, this is the same fate I would ascribe to Las Vegas. Great for a few days, then REALLY great to go home.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the unveiling of the building in light of the recent debt problems. This building, at a cost of $4 billion or so, as part of a $20 billion “Downtown Dubai” project, just looks so irresponsible now. Obviously, Dubai wasn’t the only property developer to get their projections and/or timing wrong, but it’s such incredibly bad timing. I know I wouldn’t look to buy a multi-million dollar condo in an area where the government can’t pay the bills. Which is why not only won’t I be moving to Dubai, I won’t be moving to California either!
Obviously, I’m taking a relatively short-term look at the situation. It could be that the Burj Khalifa ends up being as iconic as the Empire State Building in the United States; if so, perhaps this short-term blip will turn out to be an impressive investment, one that pays off many times over. The next decade or so will let us know the outcome; if the World economies turn around quickly, I’m wrong. But somehow a quick turn-around just doesn’t feel like a possibility. But even if it does, if I had $4 billion in the bank, I wouldn’t be rushing to build the next Burj Khalifa.