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Exciting times are ahead for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) district when ICD Brookfield Place, a 1.5 million square feet office and retail development, is expected to open its doors around the end of 2018. Brookfield Place has won itself a name with well-designed assets filled with life in cities like New York, Toronto and Sydney, with Berlin and Manhattan under development.
Over the last several years we directed a great deal of our real estate energy into place-making,” says Ric Clark, Chairman of Brookfield Property Partners. “We take particular pride in creating environments that help businesses, that are really driving the economy globally today.”
Intelligent design, and inviting public spaces with a lively programme of arts and cultural events, makes this happen. “These Brookfield Place developments become part of the fabric in their communities and a beacon of enjoyment for those working in our buildings, visitors coming to dine and shop, and those living and working in the surrounding communities,” adds Clark. “Ambitious projects like this can’t be successful without great partners, such as Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) and Fosters + Partners, very talented architects, who designed a sustainable building we can be proud of for generations to come.”
The 53-storey office tower, coated in glass, will be neighboured by an 18,000 square feet public park, featuring a retail block with food emporium, a promenade linking into the DIFC Gate precinct. “We’re combining world-class office space with a major civic plaza. Our aim is to enhance the urban character of the DIFC, putting public spaces at the very heart of the design,” said Grant Booker, Senior Executive Partner at Fosters + Partners. “The new office tower, on target to achieve a LEED Gold rating, is shaped to reflect the sunlight, and is surrounded by a rich mix of easily accessible terraced spaces, that create a vibrant and lively extension to the DIFC.”
Joint venture partnership
ICD Brookfield Place, valued at one billion dollars, is being developed in an equal joint venture partnership between the ICD and Brookfield Property Partners. Ground has been broken with Brookfield Multiplex and Ssangyong Engineering and Construction taking care of the main construction.
Douglas Kirkman, CEO of ICD Brookfield Management Ltd, says the land had already been bought from the DIFC in September 2014, and while most financing will be provided by the equity of both companies, the rest will come from a syndicate of local and international banks with details expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.
“We are proud to collaborate with Brookfield Property Partners and the DIFC, on this exceptional offering. ICD Brookfield Place will be a world-class development that enriches its surrounding area and significantly adds to the Dubai skyline,” says Mohammed Al Shaibani, Executive Director and CEO of ICD, adding the project has served as a valuable learning curve. The tower, located right behind the Ritz Carlton, will offer sweeping views of Burj Khalifa featuring sky suites with indoor garden terraces within its three top levels.
With regard to the decision to launch the project amid concerns about dwindling oil prices, Al Shaibani says it is a phase Dubai would weather just like it did before. “At the end of the day it is not a Dubai alone but an international issue. We’re not completely dependent on oil but have a diversified economy.”
Kirkman also discounts oil price concerns, rather pointing out that with the DIFC effectively full there were many companies continuing to grow but had no room to expand within the existing precinct.
Spiking the office scene
Indeed, the project will fill a much-needed hole in the emirate’s Grade A office space, providing 940,000 square feet of it on large open floor-plates, ranging from 17,000 to 30,000 square feet. About 2,700 spaces for parking are also at hand. CBRE and JLL have been appointed as leasing agents for ICD Brookfield Place, the firms say that the project would be a game changer setting a new benchmark in Dubai’s office arena. “This building will fill up very fast, the built-quality and management is very high, there isn’t anything else like it within the Dubai market at the moment,” says Nicholas Maclean, MD of CBRE Middle East.
Talking about the importance of the project to pull the DIFC together, Alan Robertson, CEO at JLL MENA, says, “The project acts as a catalyst, with its boulevard as a spine signifying another ‘brick in the wall’ to connect the various parts of the master plan. Although there are international Grade ‘A’ buildings in Dubai, they are not managed to the same quality international standard. The occupiers targeted here are multinational financial and services companies. They will be hugely comforted by the fact that it’s the same management regime as they get in any of the Brookfield around the world. This will encourage the rest of the market to catch up.”
Whilst the general vacancy in Dubai’s commercial space stands at around 20 per cent, and a little higher in the strata sphere, Grade A space is in short supply with a vacancy of less than 5 per cent, according to Robertson. Maclean already sees a long list of potential clients in its order book, which tracks demand looking three years ahead. “Corporations are very slow in making up their minds, so we know what they’re going to do in 2018 pretty much today, and are very confident that we can pre-let a significant portion of this building,” he says.
Dubai is again benefitting from distress in the region, with a lot of international companies showing that they want to use the emirate as a strategic staging post to do business with countries in the region, such as Iran, Maclean points out.
Brookfield, for instance, has just made a bold financial statement investing itself into the project. “This is really important as it creates trust and kick starts an international institutional investment market here, as institutions tend to follow one another. In spite of the uncertainty in the global economy, the volume of capital that is flowing around the world looking for investments is enormous, there are lots interested in the Dubai story, and will follow Brookfield,” Maclean adds.
Source: Nicole Walter, Special to Property Weekly