Honeymoon retreat: Developer of floating seahorse villas to open heart-shaped island off Dubai coast

A heart-shaped island is being developed off the coast of Dubai targeting honeymooners and the otherwise romantically inclined.

Kleindienst, the Austrian developer behind The Heart of Europe project on The World islands, plans to open the retreat by the end of this year.

“If you go out there you can already find the island shaped as a heart right now, said Josef Kleindienst, a former policeman turned property tycoon.

While there will be no accommodation on the island itself, visitors will be able to stay in the floating “seahorse” villas moored alongside.

The developer is showcasing the floating homes this week at the annual Cityscape exhibition in Dubai, the largest real estate show in the country and one which is seen as a bellwether of property market confidence.

It is taking place on the heels of a number of lavish and large- scale project launches in recent days, even as brokers report subdued sales activity and weakening rents.

Dubai property prices fell 2.4 per cent in the second quarter or by 5.2 per cent on an annualised basis according to the latest data from Cluttons, the property consultancy.

Still, Mr Kleindienst believes his project can prosper even in a weakening property market because he is selling holiday homes rather than end user units.

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New property projects at Cityscape Global 2016 in Dubai – in pictures

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“If you look at any city in the world that has developed over a long period of time, you will find around the city in a driving distance of 30 minutes to one-and -a-half-hour’s areas with vacation homes, on lakes and rivers and in the mountains. The weekend comes and people jump into their cars and go to their vacation home.”

“The Heart of Europe is the first project in the UAE that serves a similar purpose. Therefore we are seeing more and more Emiratis purchasing homes from us with the idea to use them during weekends, for celebrations or for an Eid break.”

The developer has already sold more than 50 of the seahorses which sell for between Dh9 million and Dh12m.

The Heart of Europe aspires to bring an authentically European feel to a location that feels for the moment at least, anything but European.​

Even by Dubai standards the project appears ambitious, with plans to bring outdoor climate-controlled areas where even good old European rain is available.

“When you travel you want to see different things and hear different languages,” said Mr Kleindienst. “Europe has 51 countries and in my entire life I have met only one person who has travelled all 51 countries.

“We will have 51 food and beverage outlets from these different countries. For us it is important that, say, a coffee shop from Napoli feels like a coffee shop from Napoli. He will need to bring his sign, his recipes, his waiters, his food and when you enter he will welcome you in Italian. You will be taken to Italy the moment you enter. It needs to be authentic.”

scronin@thenational.ae

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