A shift in focus

The OpusThe Opus l Image Credit: Courtesy of Omniyat

With projects worth Dh12 billion under way, delivered or in the pipeline, Omniyat is busy adding to Dubai’s skyline. Mark Phoenix, Managing Director of Omniyat, says The Opus, designed by Zaha Hadid, is the one he is most excited about.

From the group’s office in Business Bay, one can see the building’s façade gradually come together. “The structure is complete,” says Phoenix. “The glass façade is going on now.

“Inside the void of the building we have a complicated double curved façade, which is under manufacturing. There are around 5,000 pieces of glass that are being individually designed to fit together.

“Once that comes to life, the true beauty of The Opus will emerge.” No wonder that the hotel and serviced apartments in The Opus, which will be branded and managed by Me by Meliá, are seeing brisk demand.

“We have already sold around 30-40 per cent since we started a year ago and are continuing to sell,” says Phoenix. “There is buyer interest from the GCC while members of Hadid’s fan club in the UK and Russia are interested in the project.”

Options galore

While The Opus and The Pad, further down Business Bay, are both likely to be completed in the next 12 months, Phoenix says there are other projects at various stages of development.

“We’ve recently completed The Binary, which is approximately half a million sq ft of office space.

“In Business Bay we have a project called Sterling, which consists of twin towers. Currently, excavation for the basements is under way — the structure will have three. There are two new projects that are being developed as hotels and serviced apartments in [the area] as well. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with a hotel group for one. Another project called Plot 18 is about a million sq ft hosting a hotel, serviced apartments and residences.”

The company also has two projects in Dubai Maritime City. Anwa was launched late last year with a two-and-a-half-year programme to completion and is reported to be 75-80 per cent sold already.

A smaller residential tower close to Anwa is set to be launched in October. “We are currently working on its pre-design,” says Phoenix.

“It would be a smaller residential tower, but similar in standard and design [to Anwa].”

However, it’s the One At Palm project that occupies pride of place. “That’s a super-luxury residential tower,” says Phoenix. “It’s 100m tall with 90 apartments, and the smallest apartment will be around 3,000 sq ft. The contract will be awarded in the next two to three months and it will take two years to complete.”

With a focus on creating iconic projects, Omniyat is showering special attention on One At Palm. “It’s designed as a super-premium [collection of ] penthouses with every facility you can imagine,” says Mohammed Hmeid, Sales and Marketing Director of Omniyat.

“Every inch has been discussed and given finesse.”

Leap in sectors

Dubai is no stranger to Omniyat, mostly due to its fascination with creating conversation pieces. Established at the height of the property boom in 2005, it was hit hard by the recession. The Binary, Opus and Pad are three of its delayed projects — during the downturn the company continued to deliver ongoing projects rather than launch new ones.

In its new format, The Opus, which was originally planned as a 23-storey retail and commercial tower, comprises a five-star, mixed-use hotel and apartment development. Phoenix says it represents a major shift in focus.

“Originally in Business Bay we started with a lot of offices, but the office market slowed during the crash,” says Hmeid.

“The sectors that are more stable are residential and hospitality. Good-quality residential projects in the right locations will always sell. Also, hospitality has only been increasing with tourism in Dubai projected to be even stronger. So we’ve shifted towards more provision for hospitality and residential rather than office and commercial.”

The ten-year-old company has long-term plans for Dubai. “Expo 2020 has made a big statement,” Hmeid says. “The economy is moving strong. The government announces new initiatives every month and business is [growing stronger]. Also, there is keen interest from GCC investors to come here for a second home.”

While there was a dip in sales at the start of the year, Hmeid says Omniyat was not affected. “There was perhaps a slight slowdown in the number of transactions, but it did not affect our pricing,” says Hmeid. “It has picked up since end of February. It was part of a cyclical pattern, but demand continues to exist.”

Omniyat has the advantage of owning land in enviable locations in Business Bay. This allows the company to focus on five-star property rather than join the current wave of budget and mid-scale developments.

“We’re not looking at mid-range at the moment,” says Phoenix. “All hotels in the pipeline are five-star. We see that as a very stable market for the area in which we are developing them, primarily Business Bay. The other two hotels will also be five-star. Mövenpick Hotel Apartments The Square at Al Mamzar, which is operational, is a four-star with 180 keys.”

Premium categories

Shunning claims of an exclusive association with luxury, Phoenix says the strategy is to work across segments. “We’ve done different projects at different price levels and are not after just the super-luxury end of the market. We have a full range and expect to be the best in class in each of these.

“We’ve sold property at Dh650-Dh4,000 per square foot. What we try to ensure is that when we’re selling at Dh650, it is the best you can get for that price.”

While buyers consist of occupants and investors, Hmeid says the projects are designed with the end user in mind. “Our apartments are designed for an end user experience. There is focus on the living experience, privacy and quality.

“Every project is designed with a concept, theme and story around it, which is why investors buy from us too. They know they will have a high yield due to high demand from end users.”

In terms of future projects, Phoenix says Omniyat is looking at a number of tall towers around Dubai. “These are all mixed-use, with most comprising hotels, offices, serviced apartments and residential components. In a couple of years, we [will look] at larger villa master plans around Dubailand.”

Source: Shalini Seth
Special to Property Weekly


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