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DOHA, QATAR-The Pearl-Qatar island development has begun to rise out of its shell. Towers are climbing rapidly in the first segment of this master-planned, man-made island in the Persian Gulf. The first phase of the project is the $2.5-billion Porto Arabia neighborhood, where 31 towers, each 20 stories high, are beginning to be topped off. The first residents are expected to move in by December.

In addition to the residential towers, Porto Arabia will also include one million sf of retail space, a Four Seasons Hotel and a 400-berth marina. The island is linked to Qatar’s west coast via a short causeway.

Pearl-Qatar is being developed by United Development Co., Qatar`s largest private sector shareholding company, which is listed on the Doha Securities Market. Seattle-based architecture and construction firm Callison created the island’s master plan, which outlined designs for 14 million sf of residential, retail and commercial space. Callison is currently overseeing the construction process. The local construction company is KEO, based in Dubai.

“This is very much a dream project,” Callison principal Bill Gartz tells GlobeSt.com. The project is distinct from others in the world, he says, because the entire community is planned from the ground up, rather than just adding a number of residential towers into an existing community. “Creating a whole sense of community is pretty unique,” says Gartz. “And we did it with the challenge of being respectful to and appreciative of the culture.”

Another aspect of the project that has been gratifying for Gartz is that Callison was able not just to create the master plan for the project, but also to oversee the local architects. Typically, architects are overseen by the project owner. But UDC charged Callison with hiring the local architect and overseeing the work in progress. “This model provides greater design control,” Gartz says.

Port Arabia is the first of four phases at Pearl Qatar. The island was made in a two-year land reclamation process, in which 400 hectares of new land were created with a 32-kilometer shoreline, three coves and navigable canals. Construction is in four phases with a target completion date end of 2011.

When fully developed the island will house around 11,000 luxury villas, townhomes, penthouses and apartments which will, in total, be home to up to 40,000 residents. It will also include three five-star hotels and three marinas, with mooring capacity for 700 boats. Total retail space will be 150,000 square meters, and will focus on high-end shops and restaurants. The island will also have three primary schools and a secondary school, kindergartens and day care centers.

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