The Singapore Flyer was first conceived in the early 2000s by Patrick MacMahon of Melchers Project Management, a subsidiary of German company Melchers. Formal planning commenced in 2002. A new company, Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, was formed as the developer, with Melchers Project Management holding a 75% stake, and the remainder held by Orient & Pacific Management. The project was formally announced and endorsed on 27 June 2003 by the Singapore Tourism Board with the signing of a memorandum of understanding, formalising the understanding between the developer and tourism board with regard to the land-acquisition process. Under this agreement, the tourism board was to purchase the plot of land in Marina Centre from the Singapore Land Authority, and lease it to Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd for 30 years with an option to extend the lease by another 15 years. The land was to be rent-free during the construction phase of the project. In July 2003, Jones Lang LaSalle was appointed as the real estate advisor. Takenaka and Mitsubishi were selected as the main contractors, and Arup as the structural engineer. Early designs showed a 169 m (554 ft) tall wheel similar to the London Eye, drawing criticism that it lacked originality. The developers pointed out that the design was not finalised and was merely for conceptualisation purposes, though the final project changed little from the early designs. Subsequently, the project was to grind almost to a halt when the developer faced difficulties in sourcing funds to build the wheel. Original plans to complete the wheel by the end of 2005 were thus postponed indefinitely, and there were reports (denied by the Singapore Tourism Board) that the tourism board has set an ultimatum date of 31 March 2005 for the developer to iron out its financial issues and to keep the development going.
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