Photo: Suada Club
Earlier this month, Bloomberg Markets reported Istanbul is planning to build a $2.6 billion dollar financial centre that would rival Dubai’s.According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s current plans, within three years, a high-rise office building will dominate the modern suburb of Atasehir, now a dusty patch of land on the Asian side of the city.
The announcement comes in a year where the city’s stock exchange has grown 26 per cent. Citigroup and HSBC already have a presence in the city, along with Japanese and Russian multinational banks.
Meanwhile, a robust banking culture is already making inroads. CEOs seek out the Billionaire Club, a showy multi-level nightclub, while junior executives head to the Suada Club, a man-made party island with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, bars and restaurants in the middle of the Bosporus Strait.
The city of Istanbul flanks both sides of the Bosporus straight, which connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, and for millennia has been a waterway of great strategic importance.
The Bosporus also serves as a barrier between Asia and Europe.
Home to about 13.5 million people, Istanbul has the world's second largest population within in its city limits behind Shanghai. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has plans for a new airport and a dramatically remodeling of Taksim Square, Istanbul's central plaza.
According to the Financial Times, Erdogan's critics accuse the prime minister of building monuments to himself and fear his plans are being pushed through with insufficient scrutiny.
But the government is feverishly working on infrastructure to make it feel less crowded and more modern.
Part of Erdogan's grand vision is a third bridge crossing the Bosporus to relieve congestion in the crowded city. The project is estimated to cost $2.5 billion and is planned to be completed by 2015.
The Financial Times reports investors worry about the country's budget deficit and believe the bridge will push the deficit from 1.4 per cent to 2 per cent of GDP.
This is the piece of land slated for Istanbul's Wall Street. Construction has already begun in the background.
During the first two months of 2012, the Istanbul Stock Exchange's main ISE National 100 Index was 25 per cent higher than during the same period a year earlier and is now nearly four times larger than that of Dubai's.
Goldman Sachs recently agreed to pay $240 million for a 13 per cent stake in Turkey's largest non-government power producer.
At a finance conference on June 13 in Istanbul, Martin Spurling, CEO of HSBC in Turkey, said:
'I had no idea how big Istanbul was until I was appointed here. I was shocked. In terms of its location, history, culture, human potential and hospitality, Istanbul's a great candidate to be an international finance centre. We have to explain it to the world a little better.'
According to Bloomberg, the Turkish economy expanded by 8.5 per cent last year, third fastest among the G20 industrialized nations behind China and Argentina. Foreign banks are moving in to the city including bulge brackets such as Citibank, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase.
The Palladium Shopping Centre in Atasehir houses a movie theatre, 24 restaurants and more than 150 shops, including Adidas, Gap and Zara.
Hurriyet Daily News Reports:
'According to the centre's master plan revealed by the minister, nearly 560,000-square-meters of offices, 90,000-square-meters of land and 70,000-square-meters of hotels would be constructed. However, the Turkish government has not yet announced how the massive project would be financed.'
Named Suada Club, this island has eight restaurants with cuisine ranging from Italian to sushi to seafood.
It's billed as the 'sweetest getaway resort inside the city.'
Inside the city's trendiest hotel, The Billionaire's Club is Istanbul's newest nightspot.
'Inside Billionaire, the space is arranged like a glimmering disco ballroom accessed through a dramatic staircase that descends into the main dance club for truly grand arrivals. Arranged in white leather furnishings with Louis XIV lines and bedazzled gold trim, seating vignettes are arranged under a ceiling covered in 6-tier crystal chandeliers that could humble even the most bling of billionaires.'
If you want to relax and get away the city, there are beautiful islands a short boat ride from Istanbul.
The New York Times recommends Buyukada, part of a group of islands called The Princes:
Only two square miles in size, Buyukada, population 7,000, is the largest island in a green, hilly archipelago that rises from the Sea of Marmara like a convoy of basking turtles. The islands -- known as the Princes, or, in Turkish, Adalar -- are actually a far-flung district of Istanbul, but unlike the city on the mainland, with its roaring traffic, Wi-Fi-ready cafes, skyscrapers, and galleries and concerts that court a global audience, they haven't seemed to have gotten the text message that the 21st century has arrived. It isn't entirely clear that the message about the 20th has arrived, either. To set foot on Buyukada is to enter a living diorama of the past, wholly preserved. There are no skyscrapers here, no cars; only bicycles, horse-drawn buggies (called faytons), filigreed mansions and tile-roofed villas set amid flowery lanes, and emerald hillsides that drop down to rugged beaches.
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