Exclusive: Arenco weighs plans for twin-towered Dubai Media City site

Director says views on plots between Arjaan Rotana and Concorde Tower lends towards residential project

Dubai Media City (DMC) part of Dubai Holding is a tax free zone within Dubai, has been built by the Dubai government to boost UAE's media foothold. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Dubai Media City (DMC) part of Dubai Holding is a tax free zone within Dubai, has been built by the Dubai government to boost UAE's media foothold. Image used for illustrative purpose.


Arenco Real Estate is considering building two major towers comprising up to one million square foot of built up space on neighbouring plots at Dubai Media City.

The plots, which currently contain surface car parking, sit between the Arjaan Rotana hotel and the Concorde Tower office building, facing the Jumeirah Palm monorail building.

Rory O'Connor, a director of Arenco Real Estate, told told Zawya in an interview at the real estate firm’s office on Monday that the company’s chairman, Abdullah Al Moosa, "will probably build an upmarket residential building, with shopping and facilities on the ground floor and parking above", but added that plans for the site have yet to be finalised.

"I don't know until we've finally done the numbers, but the view from there, over The Palm and over the One and Only is spectacular. I think that will drive it."

Arenco Real Estate is the property division of Abdullah A. Al Moosa Enterprises – a family-owned group of companies established in 1971 which has interests in building consultancy, hospitality, car hire, interior design and furniture manufacturing, among others.

The company is still run by Abdullah Al Moosa and his sons, and the real estate arm has grown from a single office tower in Karama into a portfolio containing more than one million square feet of office space, over 700 villas, nine hotels and more than ten Golden Sands apartment buildings in the Mankhool area of the city. It also owns 13 staff accommodation buildings in Dubai Investments Park (DIP) and industrial property both in DIP and Al Quoz.

Palm hotels

Current development projects include three hotels at Palm Jumeirah - all of which are being built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation Middle East. Two of these - a 600-room Hilton and a 600-room Marriott are on neighbouring plots - are "close to closing out", said Connor.

"The construction is complete in terms of concrete and bricks. We'll shortly be moving into fitting them out."

He said that the company is looking to open both sites either late next year or early in 2019. The third - a 350-room property that will be operated by Taj Hotels and Resorts - is likely to open "three or four months later", Connor said.

A new staff accommodation building is being built to accommodate hotel workers in Dubai Investments Park, which should complete in six months. Following this, the company's next move is likely to be building more Golden Sands apartment buildings in Mankhool.

The company has other land holdings, including a site in Business Bay that it is not currently looking to develop, but Connor, who has worked for the group since returning to the UAE from South Africa in the early 1990s, said that the company is not actively targeting land acquisitions at the moment.

"We're always looking, but unfortunately land prices are very high and with prices [for homes] dropping, the numbers don't stack up."

He said that the company has always been "fairly conservative" both in its approach to development and to funding, but this does not mean that it has not been investing.

For instance, he said that although much of its villa stock consists of slightly older buildings - it owns about 500 villas in Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim, and 200 newer villas in a complex close to Knowledge Village – it undertook a comprehensive renovation programme two years ago that saw most of them gutted and then rebuilt internally.

"When you walk in, it looks like a brand new, modern villa. You have to do that in today's market to maintain your occupancy."

Market outlook

Research published last week by Phidar Advisory argued that the residential property market in Dubai is showing signs of further softening, with rents declining during the summer and vacancy rates increasing as new stock comes onto the market.

Vacancy rates are as high as 30-35 percent in some communities, and although off-plan sales have remained steady, Phidar Advisory's managing director Jesse Downs said that "sale volumes of completed properties are at a six-year low".

The report estimated that residential property in the city remains overvalued by about 15-20 percent, but said the market "may or may not correct to this value", depending on the power of sentiment and external factors.

© Zawya 2017

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