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Construction rarely ever stops in Dubai, once home to almost a quarter of the world’s cranes at the height of the property boom. From new bridges and marinas, to theme parks and artificial beaches, it’s only a matter of time before the urban landscape is retransformed, galvanizing tourism and business and setting new trends in the real estate market. All it takes is a drive across the city and a visionary mind to see what the future holds for Dubai in the next five years.
Highway to waterfront
Starting from the city’s main artery, Shaikh Zayed Road is currently being elevated near Business Bay to allow for a waterway to flow underneath it. Rising eight metres via a bridge, the highway will eventually shade the Dubai Water Canal, where boats and yachts travel from the Creek to Jumeirah beach.
Hundreds of properties are already sprouting on either side of the canal, including freehold apartments, retail units and eventually waterfront residences with private marinas. The canal itself is slated for completion by 2017, while the surrounding development should be ready by 2020.
Another fast-rising landmark on Shaikh Zayed Road is Al Habtoor City. Stretching over 10 million sq ft, the development includes three Starwood-managed hotels, three upscale residential towers and an iconic Las Vegas-style aqua theatre.
Speaking of mega developments, the 47-million-sqft Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) City is by far the largest mixed-use project to emerge in Dubai in recent years. The project will encompass a number of high-end communities, such as MBR City — District One, where the first and second phases of villas are due for delivery by mid-2016 and mid-2017 respectively. This is good news for investors who’ve acquired property there, as villa prices have increased since the project was launched, rising from Dh1,800–Dh2,500 per square foot in mid-2013 to Dh2,500–Dh2,700 per square foot this year.
While it might not have the beaches of Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah, District One will feature the world’s largest artificial beach — the 7km Crystal Lagoons — and it will exclusively comprise villas and mansions. The four-phase project is scheduled for completion by 2019, in time for the World Expo 2020, which runs from October 2020 to April 2021.
Moving southward towards Jebel Ali is another grand development: Dubai South (formerly Dubai World Central), a 145-sq-km master-planned city with Al Maktoum International Airport at its heart and with connectivity to Jebel Ali Port and the Expo venue.
Jebel Ali will generally become more accessible thanks to the Expo 2020 site, which will be connected to the city via an extension of Dubai Metro’s Red line. Beyond 2020, three new metro lines — Blue, Gold and Purple — are under study to serve Dubai’s booming population. The Purple line will be especially important, as it will connect Dubai’s two international airports through MBR City.
Like the majority of upcoming projects, Al Maktoum International’s phase-one expansion is tied with the Expo 2020, the year when the airport will be able to handle 130 million passengers. Dubai South will consequently become among the world’s top real estate hotspots, which explains why developers are flocking to this area.
Plans were recently revealed for a Dh25-billion middle-income residential project to be laid out as a cluster of villages in Dubai South, the first of which will be ready in 2019. Soon after, Nakheel announced Jebel Ali Gardens, a community comprising 10,000 apartments in 42 buildings.
Meanwhile, Meraas is already selling residential freehold plots in its Jebel Ali Hills development, at sizes ranging from 10,000-16,000 sq ft, with land values just Dh115-Dh120 per square foot.
Indeed, Jebel Ali will extend farther than the economic free zone. After all, the area enjoys pristine beaches and proximity to an international airport, besides being the future address for the much-awaited Dubai Parks and Resorts, set to open in late 2016. On the same year, IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubailand will open its doors, just as construction begins on the 20th Century Fox World theme park in Dubailand. Needless to say, Dubailand is worth keeping an eye on.
Despite its far-flung location and semi-completed infrastructure, the area has become a preferred destination for affordable rentals, which makes investment in this community a wise choice. For instance, in early 2012 rents for a two-bedroom villa in Dubailand’s Layan Community ranged from Dh72,000-Dh75,600 per year. Today, the same property is rented out for Dh110,000-Dh115,000 per year.
On the other side of Dubai, Deira is witnessing a series of projects that could help it regain its importance as a commercial hub. Among them is the Jewel of the Creek, a mixed-use waterfront development targeting completion in 2017, and Dubai Creek Harbour, a district that will boast the world’s largest twin towers.
Even Al Mamzar is undergoing an overhaul with a 9,000-sq-ft beachfront development to be completed by the end of 2018, the same year Deira Islands should be inaugurated.
There’s no question that Dubai’s real estate market will substantially gain from the Expo momentum, whether through the influx of tourists or new expatriates. Moreover, Expo officials expect more than 275,000 jobs to be created across the country in the next five years to service the event.
So even though there is the 11 per cent decline in property sales this year and the price drip may continue in 2016, once developers start handing over projects in 2017, the market will most likely perk up again and Dubai would no longer be a temporary stop, but a place to settle and call home.
Source: Porush Jhunjhunwala is Director at Banke International Properties, Special to Property Weekly
Al Nisr Publishing accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided