INTERVIEW: “We're putting our money where our mouth is” – Developer pumps $1.36 bln into Sharjah project

The 2.2 million square metre site offers ‘a city within a city’, says Prince Khaled

HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, Vice Chairman, ARADA. Image supplied by ARADA.

HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, Vice Chairman, ARADA. Image supplied by ARADA.

The new $6.5 billion Aljada mixed-use property development in Sharjah will provide a 'city within a city' containing elements that are unique for the emirate, according to developer Arada's vice chairman, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal.

Speaking exclusively to Zawya on the sidelines of the launch event, Prince Khaled said that the project "really does encompass a lot of what's missing in Sharjah".

"To us, we've seen a lot of designs but this one really elevated the development of what Sharjah is really used to with other developers.

“So we're putting our money where our mouth is. We're telling them 'You need to up your ante', because we're developing something that is on par with anything that's happened in the UAE [United Arab Emirates], not only Sharjah. We're very proud of this," he added.

Fountains and parks

The Aljada project will be spread over a 2.2 million square foot site - a similar size to Emaar Properties' Downtown Dubai area. It will feature a Central Hub with a large piazza and musical water fountains, children's adventure centres, skateparks and other entertainment venues. One end of the site will house a souk district, while the other will contain a 500,000 square metre business park which the developer hopes will provide a new commercial centre for the emirate.

In total, Aljada will contain 12 districts and be developed over 10 phases. Construction of the first phase is due to begin in the first quarter of next year, and will complete by the end of 2019. This will contain a residential district with 272 homes for sale within three apartment blocks, 56 semi-detached villas and 28 townhouses.

Arada chairman Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi said the company is investing $1.36 billion of its own equity into the project.

"We're contributing with about 5 billion [UAE dirhams], and the rest is coming from investors and banks," he said.

Prince Khaled added that Arada is looking to provide a 'turnkey' service for investors in the projects, by getting the plots investment-ready.

"So we're using maybe one or two plots in there, but we're doing the entire infrastructure. This work is also being phased, though.

"We'll finish phases one, two and three early, then we'll see how everything goes and then we'll go for phases four, five and six," Prince Khaled explained. "Not all at once because it just doesn't make sense financially."

Sheikh Sultan said that the site was only acquired from the government earlier this year, and that Arada has been working both with master planner Woods Bagot and with Sharjah's Urban Planning Council in the interim.

"It is a huge plot," he said. "We loved the design. We changed just minor things."

The entire site has a scheduled completion date of 2025, which Sheikh Sultan said could be fast-tracked if there was suitable demand. It will include a pair of 2.2km-long boulevards and parks running the entire length of the site, linking each of the 12 districts. Other facilities include four hotels, four schools, four mosques, kindergartens, nurseries, mosques, clinics, two health centres, a public library, a post office and a municipality office.

"We wanted to have everything a person wants in one place," said Sheikh Sultan. "People who live in this area usually go all the way into the city to the corniche and all of that area. They don't have anywhere else to go. This could be the next city centre."

Rental changes

A report published on Wednesday by property consultancy Cluttons showed that apartment rents had dropped by 7 percent during the six months to the end of June, but that villa rents in the emirate had increased as they were much more affordable for families than Dubai or Abu Dhabi. A typical, 3-bed villa in Sharjah costs about 95,000 UAE dirhams ($25,863) per year to rent in Sharjah.

The company is forecasting that by the end of 2017, apartment rents will have declined by 8-10 percent over the year, with villa rents increasing by 3-4 percent.

Suzanne Eveleigh, head of Cluttons’ Sharjah office, said: “We are seeing a natural correction in Sharjah’s apartment rental market due to landlords not being allowed to increase rents for three years. This has made quite an impact on the market – and while we saw a huge hike previously, we’re now witnessing the expected correction of rental rates.

“In the villa market on the other hand, we see good value for money when compared to Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, which means households faced with rising living costs in these emirates are increasingly seeking out family home options in Sharjah. The emirate’s emerging profile amongst the wider expat community, coupled with the strong focus on creating a family-friendly destination, is boosting its appeal."

Developer Arada was founded in December 2016 and is a collaboration between Sheikh Sultan’s Basma Group and Prince Khaled’s KBW Investments. The company has already launched one project so far this year – a development containing 800 new homes and a 6,500 sq ft mall.

© Zawya 2017

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