The Tower formerly known as Burj Dubai generated more buzz one day after its long-anticipated opening: What’s it worth to have the world’s tallest tower? And what now should the landmark – renamed the Burj Khalifa at the last minute – be called?
“What do we tell taxi drivers now?” one commenter asked on the website, Ahlanlive.
At 2,716 feet, the “superscraper” stands nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building and reportedly took more than $1 billion and 22 million man-hours to build. It was intended to be the most monumental of megaprojects that have put Dubai on the map in recent years.
Some analysts say the tower’s symbolic value – of confidence, ascendancy, and a pretty remarkable feat of design and construction – is priceless. “You can call it hubris, but we're in awe of the architectural and engineering achievement it represents,” a Los Angeles Times editorial said, calling the Burj a “tower to look up to.”
After all, as the Monitor’s Laurent Belsie noted Monday, the Empire State Building opened during the Depression, the Sears Tower during the mid-1970s downturn, and Malaysia’s Petronas Tower was inaugurated during the 1990s Asian financial crisis. But those skyscrapers withstood the hard times of their early days to become long-lasting icons.
Others put little stock in symbolism. For them, the Burj is there to turn a profit – and is now unlikely to deliver. "If you look at it, it's a really bad idea,” Jim Krane, author of “City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism” told CNN. “It uses as much electricity as an entire city. And every time the toilet is flushed they've got to pump water half a mile into the sky.”
Most buyers purchased properties as investments during Dubai’s real estate boom in 2004, and will now have trouble renting out their luxury apartments in a city already packed with empty, unaffordable high-rises. Real estate prices have dropped by half from their peak in 2008 and have farther to fall.
The unexpected name change has created additional losses. Souvenir vendors will have to throw away their mass-produced T-shirts bearing the old name; security officials will need new uniforms with new logos; and the government will have to replace the many road signs already pointing the way to the Burj Dubai, a blogger at the Chicago Tribune pointed out.
Still, the tower continues to invite speculative investment. Some enterprising Internet users lost no time wondering what to make of the new name and instead acted fast to buy the domain name www.burjkhalifa.com.
The website is still under construction as its owners now wait, presumably, to be bought out at a much higher price.