All for a sense of community in Dubai

With its parks, pools and restaurants, Arabian Ranches has emerged as a popular choiceImage Credit: Supplied

While many people still enjoy residing in single villas in small compounds, community living offers the luxury of space, a range of facilities, and a chance for children to play freely. But, with a whole lot of communities to choose from, both old and new, how do they compare?

David Martin, who has lived in Dubai for the past 17 years, recommends the more established Arabian Ranches. “My family moved from our single villa in Umm Suqeim to Arabian Ranches earlier this year,” says Martin. “The only regret we have is that we didn’t do this a long time ago.

“We are so happy here and our son can play football in the park, and there are great restaurants on the development. Although Arabian Ranches is considered one of the more established communities, the house is so modern compared to our older villa in Umm Suqeim. We also have the added luxury that we don’t have to put up with the noise of  building work and everything is complete where we are.

“For anyone looking for somewhere a bit more relaxing to live in I would definitely suggest the Ranches. It is great for families, pets and offers a nice environment for children.”

Laila Huijsmans, who previously lived in the Greens, also vouches for the benefits of living in  an older community. “The Greens has a cosmopolitan community feel with so many  different amenities,” she says.

“You can take a walk around the lake, or even a run, cycle with the kids, or relax with coffee at one of the many cafés. The communal living spaces make for an easy social gathering at any time of day with play areas, gyms and pools available to all. Tecom is just across the road, there are countless supermarkets to shop in and hotels such as the Media Rotana and Byblos, Metro and public bus service, etc., are all within walking distance. There are plentiful restaurants within easy reach and also a good supply of food delivery services, some of which are open 24 hours.

“You can grab a cab outside your building at most times of the day and never have to wait for long, except on a Friday!”

Location and facilities

Huijsmans suggests that for those who have left the Greens it isn’t as simple.

“I do know from previous residents who have moved on to newer communities, such as Jumeirah Village Triangle (JVT), that they miss the ease and facilities available in the Greens,” she says. “Hailing a cab can be a nightmare in these areas.”

Although newer developments such as JVT sometimes have taxi issues, there are still benefits.

Donavon Wood, who is married with a young child and is one of the administrators on the JVT Facebook page, has lived there for almost three years. “We live in one of the two-bedroomplus study detached villas, which is fantastic for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai’s urban landscape for something quieter,” he says.

“We have large gardens that most residents pride in landscaping beautifully and almost each district has access to a community park. In my case the park is in excellent condition, it has a children’s play area and basketball court. Others have tennis courts and the largest park in the centre of JVT has a water feature and a track for jogging.

“The community does require some repair in places but we have a security team who patrol the area. It is very pet-friendly and has two grocery stores, the larger of the two sporting a small restaurant and deli area. There are one-, two- and threebedroom options available to would-be residents and more free parking than you could possibly need. Some of the houses have private swimming pools too. I have always found living in JVT to be an absolute pleasure.”

On the other side of town, Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) was relatively new when Aarika Machat and her family moved in, however, it has now become a fully equipped community. “Now after eight years it is great,” Machat says. “The community feels more complete — the greenery is mature and [the place is] less like a construction zone once you are inside the compound. My son and his friends spend a lot of time playing in the park. I feel they are very safe and are therefore having a childhood similar to what they would at home in Canada.”

Facilities at the technology park are plentiful. “We have two Spinneys, Choithrams, numerous other independent smaller grocery stores, a pet store, salons, a medical clinic and at least two fitness centres,” Machat adds. “There is a school [Gems Wellington Academy] and two nurseries that I knowof. There are numerous restaurants of varying food types. There is the Premier Inn, which is licensed. There are a few coffee shops.”

Although DSO is located further out of town, Machat insists that getting public transport isn’t too difficult in the area.

“The RTA buses are often seen around,” she says. “It is relatively easy to get a taxi even on a Thursday evening.

“Getting in and out of DSO, though, has become more difficult. There is only one access to Al Ain Road and one to Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road and there are more than 1,000 villas and hundreds of buildings with apartments or offices in them, so this makes it congested at the exits.”

If you’re looking for a convenient location, then traffic can sometimes be an issue. Charlotte Donovan recommends the Springs development, having lived there for the past four years.

“The Springs is conveniently located near the shops for your everyday needs and is a short car journey to the malls, which is great,” she says. “There are parks, pools and lakes, which is great for families. There are community barbecue areas in the park too, which residents can make use of. I wouldn’t say there are any drawbacks to living here.”

While tenants are happy to live in Emirates Living, which includes areas such as the Springs and Meadows, some experts suggest that sales of property are slowing down in the area because of new competition.

“Communities such as The Meadows are suffering sales-wise due to newer developments such as Jumeirah Park being available in the same area,” says Victoria Garrett, Head of IPM — London New Homes, Knight Frank. “This is due to the fact that these older developments are in some cases very tired and purchasers would prefer to buy something that is brand new and not needing any work doing to it.”

Affordability

However, Waqas Hassan, Managing Director, Research Konnection, feels that property investors are also being driven by affordability.

“Demand is high for properties in newer communities such as Al Furjan and Jumeirah Village Circle/Triangle where the selling price is approximately between Dh2.5 million and Dh3 million,” he says. “However, the same could not be said for DSO because the selling price of villas on average is above Dh4 million. So, newer communities along Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road are performing marginally better than the older communities on account of lower prices.”

New developments

It seems there remains room for yet more new developments as they mushroom around the city. Dubai Properties is handing over its Bay Square project, resulting in yet more supply. Comprising 13 low-rise buildings and retail stores selling wellknown brands and units with cafés on open terraces, as well as a children’s learning centre, it will no doubt become the next popular residential area.

As it is located in Business Bay, Bay Square is accessible from all major highways and is in close to the Business Bay Metro station, something that will certainly be an added attraction.

“As the city expands, there is a clear need for the emergence of new communities such as Bay Square, JVT and the new residential areas in Dubailand,” says Richard Paul, Head of Residential Valuations at Cluttons UAE.

“These new communities provide alternative accommodation options in a city where rents have been rising sharply for a number of quarters, while household incomes have clearly not kept pace with the level of growth we have recorded.

“In 2013, for instance, rental values leapt by nearly 23 per cent, while the first half of last year saw a further rise of 3 per cent as we have clearly breached a threshold of affordability. The slowdown is in no way a reflection of the strength of tenant demand, which remains exceptionally strong.”

Ultimately, it appears that there is demand for both new and old developments, particularly when it comes to rental property, but whether new or old, a potential resident must always weigh the pros and cons.

Better infrastructure

“To be considered a community, you need a sense of connectedness and completeness, and with many of these new communities still classed as emerging, there is still some way to go before they reach their apex of desirability,” says Paul.

“On the flip side, however, when you look at wellestablished gated communities such as those in Emirates Living, they are highly desirable and highly sought.

“With an established network of community infrastructure in the form of convenience stores, schools, mosques and clinics, they stand head and shoulders above more fringe locations where infrastructure is still playing catch-up.”

Source:  Helga Jensen – Forde, Special to PW

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