Low-rise, high living at Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City

District One has villas designed with a Mediterranean feel on offerImage Credit: Meydan Sobha

Four thousand workers are currently on-site to complete construction of Meydan Sobha's Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City — District One project. On a media tour of the show villas, Meydan Sobha executives say they are on target to hand over the 267 villas that make up phase one by mid-2016. The sales team at District One says the first of the four phase project is already sold out and phase two, comprising 364 villas and scheduled for delivery at the end of 2017, nearly so.

P.N.C. Menon, Founder and Chairman of Sobha Group and an industry veteran with a preference for high-end projects in Dubai as well as India, classifies the villas and mansions as ''luxury and super luxury''. He rattles off the factors that make them so: ''[They are in the] heart of the city [and built with] the highest quality of construction [on a] large expanse of land [where about] 60 per cent is open space. [There's also] Crystal Lagoon, the world's largest [man-made lagoon].''

Menon says there is no time frame yet for phases three and four, but adds that they may be brought ''to the market hopefully before the end of the year''.

Meydan Sobha, a joint venture between Meydan Group and Sobha Group, has been created to develop the 4.2-million-sqft freehold property. Each phase covers one million sq m and comprises homes, parks, a part of the freshwater lagoon and a retail zone. The entire project will also have man-made beaches. District One is situated less than 3km from the Burj Khalifa.

The project's villas are divided according to Mediterranean, contemporary and modern Arabian styles. But while it is an upmarket development, District One is markedly different from many other high-rise projects jostling for space in the heart of the emirate. The views from the villas' floor to-ceiling windows include pleasant sights of lush greenery with Downtown Dubai in the background, the Crystal Lagoon or a beach.

What lies ahead

''The vision is from Meydan,'' Menon tells Property Weekly. ''This is one of the most prestigious projects in the country. It's a part of a big vision to do this kind of development in the heart of the city.''

A part of Dubai's vision is to be a driving force in the UAE's march to the top of the happiness index by 2021. The country ranks 130th among 151 countries on the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which uses global data to measure the extent to which countries deliver happy and sustainable lives for the people who live in them.

According to the study, ''The UAE's HPI score reflects high life expectancy and high levels of experienced well-being [ranking 16 of 151], but is brought down by an extremely high ecological footprint [148 out of 151].''

Plan 2021, launched late last year by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, includes six themes that aim to define Dubai by the year as a city of happy, creative and empowered people; an inclusive and cohesive society; the preferred place to live, work and visit; a smart and sustainable city; pivotal hub in the global economy; and a pioneering and excellent government.

Dubai Municipality has already started implementing an index to measure the happiness and satisfaction of the public on different government services.

This policy has also caused a general change in the property buyer profile, shifting from speculators looking to make a short-term profit to genuine end users.

Buyer profile

''Our buyers are mostly actual users,'' says Menon. ''This is [an idea] we have from seeing a lot of [them] come with family. We can say that about 90-95 per cent of the project has been sold to actual users.''

The top buyers remain largely the same — Indians and GCC nationals — while the rest hail from the rest of the world. ''We've sold to 52 nationalities so far,'' says Menon. ''The first group of buyers are Indians, second Saudis, then we have Iraqis, Iranians and the British.''

Menon adds that they see a steady growth in the number of UAE nationals who are keen on buying property in good-quality new locations.

The modern Arab villa, catering to this segment, comes with a majlis inside the house and an en suite study. Each has two entrances, one for family members and another for guests. The family entrance takes residents directly into private quarters, bypassing the guest majlis.

Like all other styles of homes, the emphasis on large open spaces and windows overlooking the carefully cultivated greenery is obvious. Arabian elements are also visible in the décor —for instance, in the latticed wood mashrabiyas.

Other elements

As each phase is delivered, various retail and leisure components will also be ready. ''When [a part] of Crystal Lagoon under phase one is delivered, there will also be components of community retail,'' says Menon. Senior officials from Sobha also tell Property Weekly that phase one will consist of 8,000-10,000 sq ft of retail space.

The villas are priced at Dh2,500 per square foot, while the waterfront villas are tagged at Dh2,750 per square foot. In comparison, homes at Sobha Hartland — part of MBR City but not District One — are priced at Dh2,350 per square foot.

''I've never done middle-class developments,'' says Menon. ''We [only] do high-end. Hartland, which is medium to high category, complements District One.''

At District One, buyers can pick from four-, five- or six-bedroom villas, with any of the themes on offer. Prices start at Dh15.5 million and go up to nearly Dh25.5 million. The larger eight-bedroom mansions come with a price tag of Dh90 million. Four bedroom villas are 6,200 sq ft in size, five-bedroom villas are 7,300 sq ft and six-bedroom villas are 8,000 sq ft.

The project is located in Meydan alongside the racecourse, a nine-hole pay-and play golf course, tennis academy, an Imax theatre and The Meydan Hotel. District One is planning a retail centre as well as other hotels.

Noting that price fluctuation is part of the cyclical nature of real estate markets, Menon says the high pricing is driven by the value of the project. ''You cannot compare the price in terms of location. This location cannot be repeated. It is 1,200 acres of land.

''There is nothing comparable in the city. And in terms of quality, it is the best in the country.''

Infrastructure, including roads, is key to Dubai where traffic jams can be a nuisance. Plus work on an 8.8km bicycle and jogging track is progressing rapidly. ''This is a low-density project,'' says Menon. ''It will not add a huge burden to the city.''

District One Highlights

— 4.2 million sq m of villa development

— 600-acre open spaces

— 7km man-made lagoon

— 1,100 acres of freehold development

— 70 acres of water features

— 14km of shoreline

Also check out Jumeirah Islands which offers idyllic waterfront lifestyle

Source: Shalini Seth, Special to Property Weekly


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