ABU DHABI, UAE-Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority this week unveiled a new public joint stock company devoted to developing the emirate’s real estate assets. The first order of business for the Tourism Development & Investment Co. will be the multibillion-dollar transformation of Saadiyat Island–a 6,670-acre natural island located 1,600 feet offshore–into a tourist destination.

TDIC will oversee Saadiyat’s mixed-use development and will operate along strictly commercial lines, selling land to private investors who will then develop their plots in accordance with the master plan. Major development parcels are being offered to UAE and GCC investors on a freehold basis, with non-GCC investors being offered 99-year leases or 50-year renewable leases. The project is expected to attract some $27 billion worth of private investment.

The island is slated to hold 7,000 rooms, two golf courses, three marinas, 8,000 private villas, 38,000 apartments and eight “string of pearl” architectural landmarks housing museums, a concert hall, art gallery and major cultural offerings. The plan is to develop the island in three phases, with the first beginning in 2006 and the last ending in 2018. It will eventually be home to some 150,000 residents.

Lying to the northeast of Abu Dhabi city between the airport and the city center, Saadiyat is a barrier island that faces the Persian Gulf and protects shallow lagoons. Much of the eastern portion of the island is characterized by ecologically sensitive mangrove reserves.

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