Dubai Creek tower can become landmark for city, Emaar chairman says

The new tower being planned for the Dubai Creek has a solid business case and could well become a new landmark for Dubai, says the chairman of Emaar Properties.

The tower will be the centrepiece of the 6-square-kilometre Dubai Creek Harbour district that will be more than double the size of its Downtown Dubai district, which has Burj Khalifa as its centrepiece.

“If you go to Downtown and Burj Khalifa, you can tell that the volume of traffic, activity, trade, tourism and business in general is almost to the rim, to the max,” said Mohamed Alabbar.

“Downtown is the most prestigious thing and we will always keep it because that is what built our credibility. But it doesn’t mean we have to stop. We need more space. We are close to our last few buildings. This is a gift to us and we are going to look after it.”

Mr Alabbar said that although people may question the need for another tower, flats in Paris with views of the Eiffel Tower, even with not especially good views, can attract premiums of 15 to 30 per cent.

“We’ve realised over time that many of our customers would like to have that view,” he said.

The tower will sit in the middle of a development that will contain a 4.5km boardwalk, 11.16 million sq metres of retail space, 6.79 million sq metres of residential space, 22 hotels, 851,000 sq metres of commercial property and a yacht club and marina.

“We are in the real estate business. We have to do business at the same time and make some money for our shareholders. That’s the ultimate message,” said Mr Alabbar. “But so much can be done with elegance, with beauty and with adding something very special to your society.”

He said that the development of the creek, which is being done in conjunction with Dubai Properties, was unique because “it’s the first time that the city comes back to its soul”.

“The creek is really at the root of the city and it’s time that we go back and pay respect to the core of this city of Dubai.”

When asked on the sidelines how Emaar was performing in what has proved to be a difficult market for investors during the past 18 months, Mr Alabbar said that “cycles happen in all economies and all cities worldwide”.

“If you ask me about my numbers, I don’t see any pullback. We are doing better than 2015.

“Other developers might not be doing so well, maybe they are not looking after their customers well, maybe they are not doing their marketing right, maybe their unit configuration is not right. To do well you have to go long term, you have to have a strong balance sheet, you have to believe in your customer and you have to believe in the market.”

He argued that Emaar’s continued growth was down to “good management”.

“Honestly, we are managing much tighter than last year. The organisation is so much better. But within the next two months we will get better [again] because we are deploying new systems.”

Emaar yesterday made a brief announcement to the Dubai Financial Market that its chief executive, Abdulla Lahej, has “discontinued his role” at the developer. His responsibilities are now being handled by the chief operating officer, Amit Jain.

Last week, the head of residential valuations for Cluttons in Dubai, Richard Paul, said the market for residential property was still 20 per cent below the peak achieved back in 2008.

He expected prices to drop by another 5 per cent in the emirate by the end of the year.

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