The Beverly Hills of Dubai

Damac PropertiesImage Credit: Supplied

Located along the Umm Suqeim Road in Dubai, Akoya by Damac is the first master development undertaken by Damac Properties, and has already been hailed as the Beverly Hills of Dubai. The concept for the project began in 2012 as part of the natural evolution of the company, explains Niall McLough- lin, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Communica- tions at Damac Holdings. “We started negotiating on this plot of land in 2012. The recession was still happen- ing, so we were in a strong position.” After securing the land at the beginning of the following year, Akoya by Da- mac was officially launched in June 2013.

Lifestyle development

In terms of accessibility, the Akoya site has benefited from the progress the Dubai government has made with regard to its long-term development plans. As the city expands away from the roads closest and parallel to the beach, the perpendicular an- chor roads — Umm Suqeim Road and the E66 to Al Ain, for example — and sur- rounding land have seen vast improvements in terms of infrastructure and amenities.

“Umm Suqeim Road was always in the longer-term plan of Dubai, and is a very important route from an in- frastructural perspective,” says McLoughlin. “Along this route, you have access to Du- biotech, Mall of the Emirates, Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City, and the new Mall of the World. If you look at just the past 12 months, all the infrastructure has been developed to support resi- dential amenities in this area, such as schools.”

The size of the plot was also a factor — there aren’t many developers in the UAE who can manage such a large-scale project. “From the government’s perspec- tive, there aren’t many real estate companies that could develop more than 42 mil- lion square feet. They want developers that will execute and finish — and we have a track record since 2002,” says McLoughlin.

From the beginning, Da- mac Properties’ aim was to create something a little dif- ferent from the usual mixed- use developments that are available throughout the UAE. “We wanted something other than a residential mas- ter development. We wanted to create a lifestyle master development, a place that’s vibrant and exciting. We’ve brought in different compo- nents such as lifestyle, fash- ion and sport.

“What we try to bring to the market with the Damac brand are associations and collaborations. Across our portfolio, we have Fendi in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Versace in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and the Trump Or- ganisation in Akoya by Da- mac, and now our latest pro- ject, Akoya Oxygen.”

From an architectural perspective, too, McLoughlin says Damac Properties has aimed to differentiate the product from the ma- jority of developments cur- rently under construction in the UAE. “We have tried to offer a more contemporary, modern feel compared to what the rest of the market is delivering.”

Affordable to high-end

Residential units range from the ultra-high-end Fen- di-styled villas and Trump Estates mansions to the more affordable Park Condomini- ums. The first collection of its kind in the world, the 34 limited-edition Fendi-styled villas offer a taste of the iconic Italian brand’s luxuri- ous style to buyers, while the opulent Trump Estates vil- las surround the impressive Trump International Golf Club, and are marketed as the ideal home for discern- ing golfers.

Another international collaboration for the devel- oper are Damac Villas by Paramount Hotels and Re- sorts, which is a gated community of 160 serviced villas inspired by the elegance of classic Hollywood.

Other houses in the mas- ter plan include The Master- pieces, four clusters of very high-end, golf-inspired villas with views over the course; further communities of villas on the golf course, offering a golf-inspired living experi- ence; and the villas in The Park, which take full advan- tage of all the green space that Akoya has to offer.

At the other end of the scale, Damac Properties is also constructing clusters of ow-rise, ground-plus-seven condominium complexes, including the Park Condo- miniums, with scenic views and instant access to the de- velopment’s parkland, and the Golf Condominiums, which range from studios to one-, two-, three- and four- bedroom apartments over- looking the fairways from their floor-to-ceiling windows. Both unserviced and serviced condos are avail- able, and buyers of the ser- viced variety can choose to either take advantage of the lifestyle and its benefits, or gain income by placing their property in the rental pool.

For buyers, the price point across the develop- ment starts at approximately Dh700,000 for a studio apart- ment in the ground-plus-sev- en condominiums, and goes up to $10 million (Dh36.7 mil- lion) and beyond for the lux- ury Fendi and Trump villas. “There really is something for everyone in the develop- ment,” says McLoughlin.

“The demographic is a real mix because of the vari- ety of products available. We have family buyers because of the villas and town hous- es, or the kind of investors who are looking for a small serviced apartment, and then the high-end designer prop- erties. So it really is an inte- grated community, targeting everyone from apartment buyers to those looking for a large mansion.”

Currently, the major- ity of investors are end users, he adds, and com- prise a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities.

Rodeo Drive

However, it is the lifestyle element, integrated through- out the entire development, that Damac Properties hopes will truly set Akoya apart. The Drive at Akoya by Da- mac is a 2.5 km route that brings to mind Rodeo Drive in the US or, more locally, the Walk at JBR. It begins at The Catwalk, a 94,500-sq-ft community retail centre that is anchored by a large Waitrose supermarket. Offering an al fresco leisure experience, as opposed to Dubai’s usu- al temperature-controlled malls, along The Drive are a selection of premium retail and dining outlets. There are four other anchor com- ponents: an outdoor skating rink made from synthetic ice, children’s entertainment centre, golf course and an outdoor cinema.

“The idea is to create a place where people can walk and cycle, enjoy a meal, and take advantage of the full lifestyle experience while overlooking the grounds of the golf course,” he says.

Great golf experiences

At the heart of the devel- opment lies the Trump Inter- national Golf Club with an 18-hole championship course designed by Gil Hanse — the golf designer behind the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is Trump’s first golfing venture in the re- gion. “He is the fourth-most powerful man in golf to- day, owning 18 international courses, including some of the most iconic on the golf- ing map,” says McLoughlin. “We approached him and negotiated an operating deal. 

He is very hands-on, and visited earlier in the year to check on progress.”

Hanse extensively stud- ied Dubai and the surround- ing desert to develop a golf- ing concept that remains true to the Middle East’s natural landscape. “He saw the dunes, the contours of how they move, and that’s something he wanted to rec- reate here. His plants are true to the nature of the re- gion, so we’re not importing plants that wouldn’t work in this environment,” ex- plains McLoughlin.

Further green space is provided by The Park at Akoya by Damac, which is spread across 4.3 million sq ft and features open grassy areas and winding tree-lined paths and trails. The park will be open exclusively for residents and provide a wel- come open space for families and leisure activities.

Steady headway

“From a construction per- spective, everything that you can see at the Akoya site has [been happening] since June 2013,” says McLoughlin. “We have 2,200 villas with the contractor on-site, and ten of the ground-plus-seven con- dos. The golf course is fully seeded and we’re waiting for it to grass. We anticipate to have it completely grassed by March or April, then organ- ise an event or tournament to mark the official opening of the golf course by the end of this year.”

There are currently more than 250 on-site contractors as the build progresses. “One of the strengths of Damac Properties is that we have in- credible resources within the company and can work with our contractors to realise our vision,” McLoughlin adds, explaining that construction of the development is divid- ed between the contractors to minimise risk and bring the project to market faster.

Units across the devel- opment are still available as the release phases have been staggered. “35 per cent of Akoya has already been sold. We bring units to the market at various times, but obvi- ously the earlier phases are all sold out.

“As we’ve brought the product to market, it has been picked up really quick- ly, but there is still invento- ry,” he says.

The first phase sold out fast, McLoughlin adds, be- cause the type of product and the payment plans avail- able were right for the mar- ket at that time. Delivery of completed units will start at the end of the year, and will be rolled out every few months until 2018.

The equity already raised by Akoya has been rein- vested in a second project, Akoya Oxygen, which was launched in August last year and is located further along Umm Suqeim Road. At 55 million sq ft, it’s even larger than the first Akoya development.

Work in progress 

Launch date:
June 2013

Project size:
42 million sq ft

Price range:
Dh700,000 for a studio to Dh36.7m-plus for Fendi and Trump Villas

Final Delivery date:

The Park area:
4.3 million sq ft

Akoya Oxygen area:
55 million sq ft 

Source: Claire Glasby, Special to Property Weekly

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