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Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), talks about the emirate's intensified efforts in the past five years to attract foreign investors.
- Tell us about Shurooq
It was established in 2009 with a mandate to attract investors to Sharjah and to develop and manage projects. We try to eliminate obstacles that investors in Sharjah face. We are more like an investment promotion agency.
- Can you talk about your development projects?
We are developing projects all around Sharjah. For example, in the Heart of Sharjah — a historical area — our idea was to develop cafés, restaurants, shops and hotels around the area. It is now one of the most prominent destinations in Sharjah.
Another is Jebel Resort Hotel in Khorfakkan, where we are encouraging investors to co-invest with us.
- Is Sharjah more aggressive now in encouraging foreign investment in the emirate?
Definitely. Since 2009 we implemented a marketing strategy to promote Sharjah not just locally and regionally but also internationally. We've been to the US, the UK, around Europe, China, the Middle East and North Africa to promote and put Sharjah on the world map of international investors.
- What type of investors are you looking for?
We are not trying to get investors who will invest in apartments and then sell all the units and leave. We're trying to get an investor that will invest, develop, retain it and put back to the economy. That's our main objective. Also, Shurooq does not deal with end users — those who will buy apartment units. We deal with developers.
- What do you think of Executive Council Resolution No. 26 of 2014?
The goal was to make things easier for people buying property in Sharjah. Property ownership for non-GCC expats was previously unclear. Today we have clear rules and regulations that give the right for an Arab citizen to own property and give the right for a foreigner to lease for 100 years. There are areas in Sharjah that are open for all nationalities; there are areas limited to Arabs and some that are limited to Emiratis.
- Traffic has been an inhibiting factor for many property buyers. What is being done to address the traffic problem in Sharjah?
The Urban Planning Council is working very closely with the Roads and Transportation Authority in Sharjah to come up with the best solution for the traffic issue in the emirate. Among the solutions being put forward are a bus rapid transportation or BRT, a metro system or a combination of both. By the end of the year, they will have more information about which direction they are going to take. We already have several companies that have approached us with different solutions.
New developments have been lined up following Sharjah's announcement of Executive Council Resolution No. 26 of 2014, offering property for long-term leasehold to non-GCC expats. A look at the options in the market for investors and end users.
Al Rayyan was the first building project to offer property on a 100-year leasehold basis for all nationalities. Launched in February, the mixed-use development is due for completion in the second quarter of next year. Developer JMS Property Development and Management says Al Rayyan is the first integrated building development in Sharjah that features residential, office, hotel, retail and leisure components.
''This is a truly unique development for Sharjah, and we expect it to appeal to a much wider audience. The residential accommodations appeal to the modern family,'' says Randa Kamal, CEO of JMS.
Location: Close to the Dubai-Sharjah border in the Al Nahda area
Cost: Dh700 million
Type: Mixed-used building development with two residential towers and one commercial tower
Size: 2.7 million sq ft
Residential: 28 one-bedroom, 192 two-bedroom and 280 three-bedroom apartments; four four-bedroom penthouses
Hotel: 200 serviced hotel apartments at the top 12 floors of the commercial tower
Retail: 19,000 sq m comprising 80-90 shops on the second floor and a hypermarket on the ground floor
Prices: Dh750,000-Dh4.5 million
Maintenance fees: Dh12 per square foot (residential), Dh10 (commercial)
Al Zahia is a project of Sharjah Holding, a strategic partnership between the Sharjah government and Majid Al Futtaim Properties. It is the first mixed-use gated community development in the emirate. The project is being built over seven phases and will have 2,400 residential units on completion in 2019. Al Zahia will be home to around 12,000 residents.
The first phase with 51 luxurious villas has been completed and sold and work is now under way for the second phase consisting of 277 villas. Given its proximity to educational institutions, Al Zahia's upcoming apartment district also aims to cater to Sharjah's burgeoning student population.
''We strongly believe that Al Zahia will be of great interest to this market,'' says Bader Hareb, Chief Property Officer of Majid Al Futtaim Properties. The project is still awaiting approval to sell leasehold rights to non-GCC expats.
Location: Between Shaikh Mohammad Road and University City Road, close to Sharjah University City
Cost: Dh5 billion
Type: Gated community
Size: 1.33 million sq m
Residential: 349 villas, 800 town houses and 1,060 Apartments
Retail: 61 boutique villas and a 12,600-sq-m retail cluster
Amenities: Two mosques and five parks
Prices: Around Dh2 million-Dh3.7 million for the villas and town houses; from Dh300,000 for apartments
Maintenance fees: Dh3-Dh4 subsidised rate for the first batch of 49 homeowners
This is the first development launched in Sharjah to offer property to non-GCC buyers under long-term leasehold arrangements. Developed by Tilal Properties as a master-planned community development consisting of five zones, Tilal City is selling 1,855 land plots for both residential and commercial development. The plots are available as freehold to GCC citizens and leasehold to other nationalities.
The first plots in Zones A and C are expected to be released in December next year. Plots in Zones B and D will be released in 2017. ''We're talking about a community for 55,000-65,000 people that is well serviced and has commercial and retail amenities,'' says Haysam Jazairi, Business Development Executive Director of Tilal Properties. ''We are really building a new town, moving away from the congested areas.''
Location: Emirates Road, near Al Dhaid interchange
Cost: Dh2 billion
Type: Community project
Size: 2.3 million sq m
Residential: 296 plots for apartment buildings in Zone A; 673 plots for villas and town houses in Zone C; plots in Zone B (residential apartments), Zone D (residential, commercial, office and entertainment) and Zone E (commercial) have yet to be released
Amenities: Mall, schools, mosques, shops, entertainment facilities, landscaped open areas and parks
Prices: from Dh110 per square foot (land plots)
Maintenance fees: Not applicable
Get an insight on the new investment landscape that is Abu Dhabi
Source: Jobannie Tabada, Features Editor, Property Weekly