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Building on the success of its Mina Al Arab project in Ras Al Khaimah, RAK Properties is creating a new residential community within the 43-million-sq-ft master-plan development. Launched in 2006, Mina Al Arab already has two villa communities, Granada with 93 villas and Malibu with 213 villas and town houses. The new residential project will offer more variety to homeowners and investors, and targets those who are looking for beachfront residences.
Launched in March, the Flamingo residential community will have 124 villas. It is expected to be handed over by the end of next year.
''We launched Flamingo because we saw a lot of demand for villas, particular those by the beach,'' says Mohammed Sultan Al Qadi, Managing Director and CEO of RAK Properties. ''There are people who would like to buy and live in them. Others are looking for a second home, an investment or a weekend home. The response has been very good; 90 per cent of the project has already been sold.''
Flamingo will complement the two existing villa communities, which feature three- and four-bedroom residences. The rental prices of the 3,250-sq-ft three bedroom town houses range from Dh100,000-Dh130,000 depending on location. The 4,132-sq-ft four-bedroom villas are leased out for Dh150,000-Dh170,000.
''At current market prices, buy-to-let investors can enjoy a rental yield of about 8-9 per cent,'' says Al Qadi. ''Another reason for bringing Flamingo to the market was the high demand for beachfront villas. We also want to attract a new segment of buyers because the two other communities don't feature smaller homes. Not all families are looking for a big villa.''
Flamingo has two-bedroom town houses starting at 1,875 sq ft and three bedroom residences from 2,400 sqft.
''The prices of the smaller homes in Flamingo start at Dh750,000. The last sea-view villas we sold were for Dh2 million. A swimming pool villa costs around Dh1.4 million.''
Residents can take advantage of what Al Qadi describes as five-star community facilities, including a private beach, large swimming pools, children's pools, playgrounds, tennis courts and jogging tracks.
''Amenities add value to the development,'' says Al Qadi. ''It is very family friendly. We have families living here who commute to Dubai and Sharjah and also those who live and work in RAK. Expats tend to go for the smaller villas, while the larger villas are snapped up by UAE nationals from other emirates.''
Flamingo borders a nature reserve where mangroves and flamingos thrive.
''Our nature reserve is the size of Mina Al Arab. It is protected by the government and we're looking after it. The reserve will be registered with the World Wildlife Fund and we hope to open it as part of a destination for visitors in the future.''
The developer has been equally careful to engineer a natural look for the reclaimed islands and the lagoon that form part of Mina Al Arab.
''This was the main challenge—to preserve the beaches and the reserve,'' says Al Qadi. ''The project is designed in a way that the water in the lagoons doesn't stagnate. It flushes every day during the high and low tide. The water is very fresh and you'll see reefs and fish.
''If you go to the beach in front of the villas, it is very natural and clean, it doesn't smell. The only smell is from the mangroves, as they act as a natural cleaner of the sea.''
Bridges from the Lagoon District on the mainland to the islands are already complete. The Lagoon District houses 20 mid-rise apartment buildings lining the waterfront promenade facing the sea and islands.
These buildings have around 800 units. Sixteen buildings have the same architectural style and offer studios and up to three bedroom units. Four apartment buildings have been built with a different design and they feature larger, loft like units.
The ground floor of the residential buildings has been reserved for community services, including 120,000 sq ft of retail space. Residents can shop at a Choithram supermarket, while real estate and property management firms have already opened. A gym will also open soon.
''We have also signed up with two restaurants to open in the coming months, as well as a spa for women. About 40 per cent of the retail space is already leased out. Retail is very important to us, because it increases the footfall from the outside.''
Many residents have already moved in as most of the apartments have been sold or leased out. However, the developer is holding back around 25 per cent of residential units for its own portfolio.
''It makes business sense for us to keep some units for lease in all our developments. Rents have gone up by about 10 per cent in Mina Al Arab since 2012, varying from product to product,'' Al Qadi explains.
Apartment rents range from Dh15,000-Dh18,000 for studios, around Dh39,000 for one-bedroom units with sea views and Dh50,000-Dh55,000 for two-bedroom units with sea views.
The built-up area of the new project represents about half of the masterplan's entire residential offering. In terms of retail development, around 40 per cent has been completed.
''Every time we complete another piece of Mina Al Arab, we bring more value. Much of the Dh10 billion we're investing to build the development is going into the infrastructure and the reclaimed islands. We're self-financing, with some of it coming from off-plan sales of the residential development.''
The developer is also planning to build two hotels and other novelty projects in Mina Al Arab. It is already working on the design for a marina, with the final details expected to be revealed later this year. Another hospitality offering will also open in an existing building.
''We will have a serviced hotel apartment within the 20 Lagoon Buildings, which will be managed by another company,'' says Al Qadi.
Residents and guests at Mina Al Arab can also look forward to a major attraction near the development, the WOW Iceland Water Park.
''As a destination, we complement each other. Mina Al Arab, the water park, Al Hamra and Al Marjan all contribute to attracting people to Ras Al Khaimah and its economy. We've been growing on the tourism side, with prestigious hotels such as the Waldorf Astoria and Rixos Bab al Bahr opening, and the free zone growing.''
More villa communities such as Bermuda and Marbella are also going to be developed. The timeline for these projects and other developments will be announced at a later date.
As Mina Al Arab's residential population grows, the developer says there would be a need to build more facilities such as schools.
''Schools are a good point, as would be a medical centre. However, we are waiting for the number of people to increase in the area, to encourage investors to bring these facilities to the development. From next year onwards, it would probably be the right time to plan it more seriously.''
Looking ahead, the developer is full of optimism, especially with the UAE becoming a major venue of global events.
''Thanks in part to the Dubai Expo 2020, the future is bright. We have seen a lot of changes after Dubai's successful bid. There is a lot of demand and inquiries from investors. It has had a very positive impact. We complement each other, Dubai and RAK.''
Source: Nicole Walter, Special to Property Weekly