Redefining real estate: One man's quest to change how people live

PWMohammed Bin Zaal l Image Credit: Courtesy of KOA

Mohammed Bin Zaal is no less a figure than the UAE’s most renowned real estate entrepreneurs. The man behind the luxury community development Al Barari tucks a number of awards and plaudits from his peers in the industry, including being named among this year’s 100 most powerful Arabs under the age of 40.

But he’s nowhere near to resting on his laurels as he recently started a new business venture he calls “KOA”, which he describes as “a unique real estate concept that aims to bring a new definition to residential living in the UAE”.

The concept entails the creation of residential communities that are “looking forward” and are reflecting the lifestyles of a new generation of UAE residents, contributing to “the soul of new Dubai” and combining modern design elements, new retail concepts and a new approach to working spaces and other facilities. KOA’s first project is named Canvas located near Mohammad Bin Rashid Gardens, off Emirates Road. It is set to be launched later this year, targeting young professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs.

PW touches base with Bin Zaal to learn more about KOA’s seemingly game-changing concept. 

How did you come up with the KOA real estate concept? And what does KOA actually mean? 

I spent my professional life in real estate and urban development is my passion. KOA was a natural progression from my experience from the launch of Al Barari. Having grown up in the region and watched Dubai mature and embrace more artistic, cultural and creative endeavours, I knew that real estate needed to evolve and reflect this new community. KOA is about bringing these new values and ideas into people’s homes and meeting the demands of this new generation of consumers. 

The definition of KOA is strength. This is an aspirational project to not only give people their dream homes, working spaces and communities, but also to set a new standard in the region of what urban developments should stand for, supporting the UAE and the region in their drive towards cultural enrichment. 

Do you have co-founders or co-investors?

This is my venture.

Who is the target for this residential concept?

Generation Y comes to mind. People want individuality and creativity [as reflected in] the clothes they wear and places they go. Now we want to offer this in where they live. I don’t think this has been realised to its full potential in Dubai. We are also looking to offer the perfect solution for first-time homebuyers in the UAE, at a place where they will be surrounded by like-minded people. KOA will offer forward-thinking UAE residents livable spaces that reflect their lifestyles. This isn’t limited only to young professionals. I believe that our residents will reflect the global outlook of the region. 

Can you describe how living in the Canvas community would be like?

All aspects of Canvas are centred on creating a sense of community, from the co-working space to the day-care centre, the three communal swimming pools, the gourmet market, the café, the children’s play area, the 185,000 sq ft of gardens and the spa facilities. It’s about creating a sanctuary away from the city, but still with every convenience you would want. There will also be landscaped gardens, barbecue areas and art displays around the grounds. The plan is to create dream homes and a dream lifestyle. Each of the 70 apartments within Canvas has sunset and Dubai city views. 

Canvas will be a showcase of the KOA ethos in terms of design, finish and facilities. The property is conveniently located 20 minutes from the city, but it offers its residents peace and tranquility. This connection and commitment to nature is one of KOA’s defining characteristics. 

Canvas will also be the home of our first co-working space — a fresh concept that aims to bring together the region’s entrepreneurs, creative talents and business game-changers. In a nutshell, life at Canvas will be relaxed, social, inclusive and inspiring. The space will encourage residents to get the most out of their spare time. 

Can you talk about the design of the community?

Taking inspiration from around the world, KOA wants to redefine what urban communities mean in the region with spaces that are designed to enhance work, rest and play. KOA will also be an active part of the community, supporting local talent and nurturing potential through design competitions, scholarships, art shows and creative collaborations. 

KOA’s properties will include residential, office and retail spaces that are unmatched in the region in terms of new design, special services and access to culture, nature and real buzzing communities. These elements have become more important to Dubai residents and are starting to show themselves in areas such as Dubai Design District and Alserkal Avenue, but until now this movement has not yet been realised in real estate projects. The strength of KOA’s projects lies in creating unique spaces and that are focused on enhancing human experiences. 

Architecturally, we focus on delivering options for a diverse mix of end users: among the 70 units there are 40 unique layouts. This is not typical of other developments. Allowing this level of uniqueness between each unit is paramount for us. Each unit is addressed differently, allowing residents to interpret the living space however they like. Through the diverse spatial arrangements, the project provides a basis for personal narratives. Embedding nature into modern residential areas was also a compelling driver. 

What exactly are the elements of ecological balance and sustainability in this project?

This connection and commitment to nature is one of KOA’s defining characteristics. Canvas will preserve the ecological balance and sustainability through landscaping that celebrates the region’s indigenous plant species. KOA will focus on indigenous and native plants, rather than importing foreign plant types that require huge amounts of water and resources to maintain. It’s about paying homage to the local beauty without straining the environment.

Who will be the developer, architect, builder of the Canvas community?

We are excited to partner with T.ZED Architects on Canvas. We are yet to choose a building partner.

What would be the pricing of the Canvas units?

We would prefer not to discuss any information about pricing until we launch the development.

What other developments are being planned?

We have a number of residential, retail and commercial projects in the pipeline. They are about meeting the demands of Dubai’s culturally diverse residents and supporting cultural growth. We will soon launch a unique co-working space and members’ club. But that really is just the beginning. With KOA, I plan to change the way people live in Dubai. It’s an ambitious goal, but that’s the way I am.

Source: Arno Maierbrugger, Special to Property WeeklyPW


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