The Abu Dhabi-based developer Eagle Hills has said its Marassi Al Bahrain project will involve an investment of $3 billion – and could provide a boost of as much as 4 per cent to Bahrain’s GDP.
The company also said that it intends by March to appoint contractors to build the first phase of the project, which will contain a 178,000 square metres mall linked to two hotels and up to 500 serviced and private apartments, with piling work starting in April.
The project will contain 1.29 million sq metres of built-up space on an 875,000 sq metres site on the eastern shore of Diyar Al Muharraq – a 12.2 million sq metres reclaimed island close to Bahrain International Airport.
Marassi Al Bahrain is a joint venture between Eagle Hills (which has a 60 per cent stake) and Diyar Al Muharraq (40 per cent) – a vehicle owned by KFH Bahrain bank and several other Bahraini investors.
The project’s phase one is to contain the Marassi Galleria mall and six directly-linked towers. Two of these are to house private apartments, two are to contain a 110-room Address Hotel and 130 serviced Address Residences, and two are to house a 159-room Vida hotel and 143 serviced residences.
The private apartments are expected to be completed within two years, the hotels and serviced apartments within two-and-a-half years and the mall within three years.
Future phases are set to include a cruise liner terminal, a traditional souq and an 80,000 sq metres business and technology centre. Once it is fully built out, Marassi Al Bahrain is to have 5,600 homes and an estimated population of 20,000.
When asked about the project’s economic impact, the Eagle Hills board member Mohamed Alabbar said that based on past experience, mixed use sites of up to 1 million sq metres typically add 2 per cent to a city’s GDP.
“If you mix this right – with entertainment, residential, tourism and hospitality and shopping, you should look at 2-2.5 per cent addition by the time it’s moved to almost 60 per cent completion,” said Mr Alabbar, who is also the chairman of Emaar Properties.
“We’ve never done work where we’re on a 2km beachfront. This might be a 4 per cent improvement because this is very special.”
Mr Alabbar said that despite a current downturn in the region’s property market, he was very confident of the prospects for Marassi Al Bahrain.
“Projects like these are way beyond any kind of cycle. You give me a site like this in Bahrain, with its friendly policies, across from Saudi Arabia and I will jump on this any day.”
In the first three quarters of 2015, residential properties in Bahrain fell in value by an average of 5.3 per cent, according to Cluttons.
Harry Goodson-Wickes, the head of Cluttons’ Bahrain office, said that in recent years Bahrainis and Saudis have been the main buyers of homes, but that Marassi Al Bahrain seems to be targeted more towards expats.
“It’s the first time you’ve got a public beach as part of a development. Expats want a beach – they keep on complaining about ‘we’re in Bahrain, on an island and there’s no beach’.
“I might be proved wrong, but I think a lot of the buyers will be local investors who will rent to the expat community.
“There will be some longer-term expats here who feel comfortable and will buy – maybe for their own use or for investment.
“But what we need to see is a return of buyers from outside of Bahrain, and I don’t quite know whether now is the time to start to see that.”
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter