By Bradley Hope www.thenational.ae
Owning an apartment inside the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is the ultimate accomplishment for Daryl Patni.
Mr Patni, 42, a Mumbai native who has lived in Dubai for much of his life, started out as a ground crew member for Emirates Airline before setting out on his own to become a commercial photographer.
He lived in Bur Dubai and Jumeirah Lake Towers but dreamed of buying a home in the Burj.
“The prices were too high and I never had the money,” Mr Patni says. “Whenever I passed by, I said ‘this is one of the things that I want to have some day’.”
After the global financial crisis hit the region and property prices started to come down, an opportunity arose for the first time. The owner of an apartment on the 21st floor was willing to sell at a lower price.
Mr Patni says he loves his apartment, which is decorated in a modern style, with different colours on each wall.
“I cannot ask for more,” he says. “For me it is the pinnacle of my success.”
Such is life for the first several hundred tenants of the Burj Khalifa, many of whom see their new homes as the epitome of luxury living in Dubai.
While not all of the 900 apartments in the Burj Khalifa or the 144 in the Armani Hotel are occupied, analyst reports have described the entire Downtown Burj Khalifa neighbourhood as “relatively stable”.
Lloyds TSB, long thought to be among the more conservative lenders in Dubai, has spotlighted the area as one of the property districts in which it will authorise loans for homebuyers.
Rents have also become more reasonable, with studio apartments going for Dh80,000 (US$21,781) a year. The estate agency Better Homes has also advertised one-bedroom apartments starting at Dh120,000 and two-bedroom apartments from Dh190,000.
This has been good news for expatriates such as Ms Cantonnet, a US citizen of Puerto Rican descent who would give only one name. She and her husband decided last year to leave Manhattan’s Upper East Side and head for Dubai.
“We asked ‘what do we want to do with our lives, where do we want to be?'” Ms Cantonnet says. “We were very happy in New York but then the economic crisis hit.”
Dubai was an ideal base for her new jewellery business and her husband’s private equity consultancy.
The couple sold their home in a historic limestone building on 75th Street, as well as their antique collection, and moved to the UAE.
They lived for a short while in a building across from the Burj Khalifa but eventually decided to give the tall tower a try. “We wanted to do high-end vertical living,” she says.
So far, they have been renting a three-bedroom apartment of about 3,000 square feet on the 92nd floor. They plan to buy some time in the next year or so, if prices finally get to the right levels for them.
“We held back from buying for now,” Ms Cantonnet says, adding that the maintenance fees in the tower are still very high. Rates range from Dh52 to Dh57 a sq ft. Her rent includes an annual charge of about Dh170,000.
But the appeal of the tower is its location and sense of luxury. Ms Cantonnet says she often uses Emaar Prestige Services, a special concierge that can handle a wide range of requests.
Decorating a Burj Khalifa apartment, however, is a challenge. The units are laid out in an “organic” way, meaning there are curved walls and huge structural columns in the middle of some spaces. The set-up “takes some getting used to”, she says.
And living in an ultra-tall tower does have its unique issues, such as the unnerving creaking that occurs during windstorms. In the middle of a shamal – a north-westerly wind blowing over Iraq and down the length of the Gulf – the windows creak and the building groans under the force of the wind, Ms Cantonnet says.
Emaar, the developer of the Burj Khalifa, says this is a normal settling of the building and that the structure was designed to withstand major winds.
To get to her apartment, Ms Cantonnet has to take two elevators: one from the ground floor to the 76th-storey sky lobby, and another to the 92nd floor.
Strangely enough, she says, she never feels she is living in the tallest building in the world.
“The other day I came down to one of our regular restaurants in the Armani Hotel, Mediterraneo, and told them my husband wasn’t feeling well,” she says.
“They made him a chicken soup and didn’t even charge for it. It does feel like a community. The scale is appropriate.”