Q&A: Al Maryah Island - Sweet spot

RosewoodServiced apartments at Rosewood Abu Dhabi are selling for Dh4,000 per square foot l Image Credit: Supplied

Al Maryah Island promises to bring a new level of business, leisure and entertainment facilities to the UAE capital.

A hotspot for investors interested in the region, the 114-hectare mixed-use development is also the capital’s international financial centre with the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Its striking architecture and multi-tiered transport infrastructure will make it one of the best places to live, work and play in Abu Dhabi.

Mubadala, Al Maryah’s master developer, is halfway through the development and has announced plans to sell the serviced apartments that are part of the Rosewood Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel on the island.

PW met Saed Arar, Associate Director of Mubadala Real Estate and Infrastructure, to learn more about the developments on the island.

The 140 serviced apartments in Rosewood and the Four Seasons will be on sale later this year. Apartments in Rosewood are already occupied by tenants and form part of your lease portfolio. Why did you decide to sell?

Yes, currently Mubadala is leasing out all of the Rosewood apartments. We decided to sell the apartments because now the time is right. There has been a good momentum created by Al Maryah Island, ADGM Square, The Galleria, the waterfront, etc. We were holding these units for the market to be ready for such a product and we believe it is ready now.

At what price will you be selling these units and who do you expect to buy, end users or investors?

I see a combination of both. All investors will be interested because once you buy into the vision of the island being the international financial centre in Abu Dhabi, and to some extent the country’s, you are buying into a premium location on an island that has a very prosperous future.

I would not be surprised [if end users buy into the project] because a lot of the tenants who are currently living there will definitely consider paying mortgage rather than rent.

It really depends on the supply that we have and how much demand we generate. As for the price, for Rosewood Abu Dhabi we are looking at Dh4,000 per square foot and Four Seasons is going for Dh4,400 per square foot.

What kind of payment plans are you offering?

We are definitely on a par with market rates, but there is a difference between the Four Seasons and Rosewood. Since Rosewood is a finished product, there is no payment plan — whoever wants the apartment will need to pay for it through a mortgage or in cash. We are currently talking to some financial houses to see how they can assist us in arranging for mortgages, although it will be interesting to see how many of those mortgages happen. I think there are a lot of high-net-worth individuals who will be willing to buy into these products and most probably will not need much of a mortgage.

How has the response been for these units, particularly at Cityscape?

It has been extremely positive. Ever since the announcement was made, the hotel has been receiving numerous calls. At Cityscape, once people found out about these apartments, their eyes lit up with interest. That’s why I think there is an extremely good demand for these units and in the days to come we will get a better idea of how much we will be able to offload by the end of the year.

Is Mubadala planning any other residential developments on the island?

The island has already been master planned. The zoning has already identified the residential plots. As master developer, Mubadala would like the sub-developers to come in, purchase the plots and develop residential facilities. So while Mubadala might not be 100 per cent involved in the development of residential facilities now, we are definitely looking for developers and sub-developers to purchase the plots and develop them.

How are the four office towers coming along on the island? What are the leasing rates?

Two of the four towers have been fully leased out: one and three. For the other two towers we are looking at new tenants to start leasing. We are looking at Dh3,500 per square metre, which is the current market rate.

Al Hilal and National Bank of Abu Dhabi are already getting their headquarters ready on the island. Are there other companies earmarked to come to the district?

We have had a lot of demand from most of the local banks. All of the Abu Dhabi local banks are looking to see if they can purchase a plot and develop their own facilities there. At the same time we have received international queries as well.

How busy has The Galleria been in terms of visitors?

For any project there is a ramp-up period. The Galleria has been successful during this stage. Last year we recorded more than three million people. These numbers are a combination of the people working, living on and visiting the island. We have seen a lot of impact from several [international and domestic] events. For example, during the Chinese New Year, a lot of tourists from China stayed at the hotel, enjoying the waterfront, food and beverage outlets and The Galleria. Similarly, during New Year’s Eve 2015, more than 6,000 people joined us.

What kind of retail and entertainment concept will the Al Maryah Central Mall offer?

First of all, it has Macy’s [an American department store], the first outside the US. It also has Bloomingdale’s. These two will be the anchor tenants in the shopping centre. There is a state-of-the-art cinema and an interactive children’s attraction planned. The mall will be a great addition to the island. The galleria and the mall will be well connected. That will create a big, vibrant environment for the island, offering almost 22 million sq ft of retail, food and beverage and entertainment amenities.

The island is being developed in three phases. How are the various phases coming along? When will phase two and three start?

Infrastructure for phase one and phase two is complete. We are currently selling plots in phase two.

We have put in place the anchor developments — ADGM Square, Cleveland Clinic, Al Hilal Bank, etc. Once these are fully developed and operational and the other plots are sold, we will evaluate the demand for the next phase. At this stage it is difficult to gauge when we should start investing in phase three. As we see the demand coming we will definitely start building the next phase. Mubadala has always been a conservative investor, so we will definitely take it step by step in order not to overshoot the market.

The architectural style of phase one is striking. Will other phases follow a similar design? Have you set any guidelines?

The master plan that we currently have has very clear guidelines, so what you can see on the models is what we are looking at in reality. Phase two has low-rises but not many villas. [These are] low-rise waterfront apartments with extra facilities in terms of jetty, marinas, etc. If the demand in future is not for that kind of development, we will change it to adapt to the market.

However, the whole island is designed [for residents] to live, work and play, and needs to maintain a certain aesthetic level. So we’re not looking to move away from that level at this stage.

Does Mubadala have any other real estate ventures in the emirate?

Currently our focus is Al Maryah Island and we want to make sure that the project evolves as planned. We are on the right path. It is getting more well known in the market both locally and internationally. Once we see the project is in a steady state, we will then definitely start looking at the other land properties we have.

Source: Ashutosh Gupta, Special to Property Weekly
—Additional inputs by Nicole Walter

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