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The past 12 months have seen fresh activity in real estate with new projects being launched across different sectors, from residential to heavy-duty infrastructure. While the UAE’s residential market still dominates headlines and investor reports - the JLL Middle East and North Africa Investor Sentiment Survey identifies it as the most preferred asset class among Middle Eastern investors - other segments are also attracting attention.
Another JLL report identifies hospitality and retail assets to be gaining popularity among investors because of their promising growth figures. “In this year’s survey, investors expressed strong optimism in hospitality real estate across the UAE, as increasing tourist numbers have lifted investor confidence in the country’s hotel sector,” says the report. “Coupled with the government’s commitment to support the sector’s growth, we expect this trend to grow as investors revise their strategies to include more hospitality assets in their portfolios.”
A lot of new projects are under way as the UAE moves to meet the growing requirements of visitors, particularly in Dubai where the government aims to attract 20 million tourists annually by 2020. We take a look at seven major developments (in no particular order of importance) that are well worth keeping an eye on this year.
1. Louvre Abu Dhabi
Conceived as part of a wide-reaching plan to make Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island a modern sanctuary for art and a hub for cultural tourism, Louvre Abu Dhabi is already a landmark and it’s not even finished. Scheduled to open towards the end of this year, it will have a built-up area of 64,000 sq m and a selection of international art treasures. An extensive list of artworks it will have on loan for its first year has already been released.
The building’s design has been attracting attention since its renderings were first revealed. The work of Pritzker prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the museum will be a “complex of pavilions, plazas, alleyways and canals, evoking the image of a city floating on the sea”. Much has been made of the structure’s roof, a shallow dome some 180m in diameter. The idea of the dome’s decorative latticework pattern has caught attention from the outset with promises of a “magical, diffused light reminiscent of the shadows of palm trees”.
2. Dubai Frame
There’s no mistaking the form of the Dubai Frame, which is rising steadily in Zabeel Park. As of January, two form work-topped towers were growing steadily, heading to the project’s ultimate height of 150m.
Once it tops out, the interesting part begins as a bridge will be built between the twin towers to form the final piece of what would look like a giant window frame that gives the 105m-wide project its name.
In December Dubai Municipality said the project was 35 per cent complete, and expected it to be ready for the public in the second half of this year. Once finished, the Dh160-million project will be home to a gallery and library, observation decks and a glass-floored bridge. It is hoped it will attract up to two million visitors a year.
3. Marina 101
This could be the year of Marina 101. Construction on the tower began in 2007 and, having survived the global recession and property slowdown, the building looks set to be completed within the year.
At 427m high, it is hard to miss and, thanks to its simple exterior form, stands out among some of its over-detailed neighbours in Dubai Marina. It will be the second tallest tower in the UAE, behind the Burj Khalifa.
The property’s 101 floors will be split to be used for hospitality and residential purposes, with the developers having announced last year that it will be home to the Middle East’s first Hard Rock Hotel. The building will house 281 hotel rooms and 506 apartments, according to data from The Skyscraper Centre, an online database of buildings around the world.
4. Dubai Opera
Dubai Opera is a new development idea in Downtown Dubai, as developer Emaar sets out to create an opera district. While it’s not scheduled to open until early next year, the bulk of work to create the 2,000-seater venue will happen this year.
In creating a centrepiece building and the district around it, Emaar is following a tried-and-tested formula. It already has plans for the Opera Grand, a 66-storey apartment building, while other hospitality and residential developments will likely follow suit.
The venue will be pitched as an events destination, with operas, theatre, concerts, art exhibitions, orchestra, film, sports and seasonal programmes all expected to be on offer. One of Dubai Opera’s main design selling points is its ability to transform: it can serve as a theatre, concert hall or a banquet or event hall.
5. Concourse D
Airports aren’t necessarily the first thing you think of when talking about property development, but the expansion of Dubai International Airport is no ordinary undertaking. The addition of Concourse D to the facility’s already considerable size and capacity will further boost the emirate’s capacity to welcome visitors.
On track to open soon, the concourse area creates an extra 150,000 sq m of floor space for the airport and will be connected to Terminal 1 to facilitate check-in and baggage servicing. Built by seasoned contractor and frequent award-winner Alec, the Dh3-billion project is one that will continue Dubai and the UAE’s march to the top of the list of popular global destinations.
6. Al Hikma Tower
With a prime spot on Shaikh Zayed Road near the Burj Khalifa, Al Hikma Tower has already topped out at 282m high. With distinctive exterior detailing and a prominent position, it is on the verge of completion and becoming a highly recognisable addition to Dubai’s beautiful skyline.
The building is also notable for having been constructed by China State Construction Engineering Corporation. Al Hikma Tow-er’s developer, Pearl Properties, is owned by Shaikh Eisa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has dedicated the project to his father, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founder. An image of Shaikh Zayed is set to crown the top of the building. The Dh390-million project will add 57,945 sq m of space to the property market in Downtown Dubai.
7. Regent Emirates Pearl
Regent Emirates Pearl isn’t the only hotel set to open in Abu Dhabi this year, but it could well be the tallest at 255m. The property will offer 365 rooms spread over the 52 floors above ground level. There will be 60 apartments included in the mix too.
Being built in the Khalidiya district, opposite the iconic Emirates Palace hotel, the building is designed by Austrian architect Dennis Lems. It sits on a 22m, five-storey podium from which two semi-circular wings will rise. The twisting exterior gives the building a distinctive look and also equips it with a balcony for every hotel room. As with other hotels that will open in the capital this year, the property signals Abu Dhabi’s continued push in the tourism sector.
Source: Stuart Matthews Special to Property Weekly