Building community spirit

Mohammad Bin Essa talks to PW about market trends and planning a varied portfolio of retail projects across the emirateMohammad Bin Essa, Executive Director of Retail and Commercial Properties, Dubai Properties

Mohammad Bin Essa is a busy man. Understandably so as he is at the helm of the retail and commercial properties division of Dubai Properties (DP) that manages an extensive portfolio across Dubai including JBR, Business Bay and Culture Village, among others.

As one of Dubai’s largest asset managers, DP maintains a broad leasing portfolio that includes the management of more than 1.2 million square feet of retail space across all its destinations, in addition to a growing portfolio of community retail within its leasing communities including Layan, Shorooq, Ghoroob, Al Khail Gate communities and others.

In an exclusive interview with PW, Bin Essa explains that well-informed projections and a diverse land bank help the company plan for the long-term and move ahead despite any odds. And he is highly optimistic about the prospects for the rest of the year.

Tell us about DP’s current retail projects. Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?

Bay Avenue and Bay Square are establishing themselves as two promising mixed-use developments with a wide choice of retail offerings. They are located within one of the most sought after destinations in Dubai – Business Bay – in an open and outdoor landscaped setting.

The two locations have successfully attracted key brands that truly reflect the lifestyle of the typical Business Bay resident or visitor. At Bay Avenue we had five new openings in the last quarter of 2015 (Smart Bike, Caribou Coffee, Burger King, PoshPotz and Appetite The Shop), while the first quarter of 2016 saw the addition of Texas Chicken, Capital Exchange, Café Barbara among others. Costa Coffee, Kamat, Starbucks, Organic Foods & Café, Gazebo, Etisalat and Du will be opening soon.

Six new retailers are fitting out their units to open within a few months including Business Bay Medical Centre. Bay Square saw more than 11 retailers opening in the first quarter of 2016.

Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) is another example of how a fully developed destination, which includes residential, retail and entertainment options, can really become a part of a city’s character.

With a total retail floor space of 678,816 square feet, leasing has maintained impressive figures in 2015, as JBR continues to attract footfall [count] of around 100,000 per week.

In the retail sector the focus seems to be moving towards niche community centres. How is DP catering to this demand?

DP works to master-plan strategic mixed-use developments that provide unique and interesting lifestyle opportunities, business environment, tourist spots and well-designed retail options aiming to meet the changing needs of Dubai today, tomorrow and into the future.

We see that community centres within gated communities are gaining strategic importance. They offer residents access to retail offerings that meet their daily needs as well as lifestyle choices.

Our Mudon community centre – Al Salam – in Dubailand is in line with this trend. In addition to main convenience essentials such as a supermarket, laundry, pharmacy, cafes and restaurants, it will also have a medical centre, nursery, school and a gym. The objective is that everything a resident would need is available within walking distance from his/ her home.

On the hospitality front, do you have any new projects planned?

1/JBR was announced at Cityscape Global 2015. Located at the entrance of Jumeirah Beach Residence, the iconic tower development offers  unparalleled luxury and indulgent living with every apartment offering panoramic sea views.

Keeping in mind current market conditions, are developers exercising caution with new project launches? Howis DP tackling the situation?

Dubai Properties is an experienced developer, and our projects are strategically planned to cater to market demand based on our forecasts, analysis and well-informed projections.

We phase out long-term projects that are set for the future, and support the vision of the leadership, which is designed to meet the diversified needs of the country.

With our broad and diverse land bank, Dubai Properties is developing iconic destinations, as the country works towards and prepares for Expo 2020. We want to deliver projects that cater to the rapidly growing city.

More and more developers seem to be planning community events at their properties. Are they gaining in significance?

Residents of Dubai, partners and tourists are all looking to live, work and spend their leisure time in places that have meaning for them. We support and reinforce our commitment to our local community by executing a number community events in addition to offering CSR and other activities that bring our destinations to life.

We organise planned activities within all our communities to reinforce the neighbourhood spirit and by celebrating together main holidays and occasions such as National Day, Flag Day, Eid, Ramadan and New Year.

Each destination has its unique flavour in the lifestyle experiences it offers to residents and visitors. JBR had a spectacular season in Q4 2015, with night bazaars, street art and music, health campaigns and, of course, the grand finale on New year’s Eve.

We’re looking forward to seeing Bay Avenue and Bay Square drawing in larger crowds as our retailers settle in. Both these destinations have a very distinct character and ambience that we’re excited to see it develop and grow.

How is the slide in land prices in Business Bay affecting the pricing of office spaces in Bay Avenue and Bay Square?

There have been no effects on prices of office spaces in Bay Avenue and Bay Square. The office prices of both destinations remain competitive and attractive for business to rent in.

Source: Libini Joy Special to PW


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