Jumeirah Central executive 'overwhelmed' by interest

The man charged with delivering the Dh73.4 billion Jumeirah Central project has said he is confident it will attract investors because it is “the greatest piece of real estate in the region”.

Morgan Parker, the chief operating officer of the Jumeirah Central project, said it has held “hundreds” of meetings with potential investors from Dubai, the GCC and from international markets, while consultation on the site’s development has taken place.

“I have been quite overwhelmed by the interest in the project, and I think it comes back to the fact that it’s just a great piece of real estate,” he said.

The site was initially intended be the home of the world’s largest mall, Mall of the World, but last week Dubai Holding said this project would instead be built on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road.

However, a new master plan created by Dubai Holding in conjunction with Hollywood-based architects 5+ Design has instead created a much more diverse range of buildings.

The site will have 47 million square feet of built up space in 278 different buildings. It will house about 11,000 new homes, 7,200 hotel rooms, 7.5 million sq ft of office space, three malls and 40 new entertainment attractions, including a central square with a “Dubai Live” entertainment district featuring an exhibition hall, two theatres and two new cultural buildings.

A new central station will anchor the north-eastern corner of the site, which will link to the Dubai Metro’s Mall of the Emirates station and contain a terminus for the extended Dubai tram.

Cable cars described as “aerial gondolas” will run close to the four corners of the site and will also extend to the nearby Madinat Jumeirah complex.

Mr Parker said there were currently “no mixed-use projects in Dubai”.

“This is the first truly urban mixed-use project,” he said.

The first phase will cost Dh24bn to build, and will focus on the south-eastern corner of the site, next to the Sharaf DG Metro station footbridge.

It covers 69 projects and 17 million sq ft of gross floor area, or about 36 per cent of the total building stock.

This will include the central square and the entertainment district, where building frontages can be used for displays to create what Dubai Holding has described as the “world’s largest outdoor art gallery”.

“The idea is to create 365 day-a-year attractions in this location. We imagine it’s the type of square where you will spend New Year’s Eve. Think of it as like Dubai’s Times Square,” Mr Parker said.

Site clearance work is already under way and infrastructure packages worth about Dh1.1bn should be brought to the market soon.

Following this, the first building that is likely to develop will be a grade A, 43-storey office tower in addition to one of the project’s three malls and some residential buildings.

It is envisaged that the first buildings will be completed in either 2020 or 2021, but Mr Parker declined to give a completion date either for the first phase or any subsequent phases.

“We don’t think like that,” he said. “It never ends. You keep reinventing, you keep going, buildings keep coming up, ideas keep coming up. It’s not like a housing estate in the desert. It’s a city, it’s dynamic, it’s an organism … it keeps growing depending on how the market grows.”

Dubai Holding intends to develop most of the project through joint ventures with local and international investors.

Mr Parker said that at present the flow of property investment from the Middle East is generally outwards to other parts of the world, but that its aim is to “create a product to encourage people to invest in this city to enable us to grow”.

He is also confident of securing institutional investment from overseas.

“Our intention is to develop the majority of Jumeirah Central in a series of joint ventures,” he said.

“We think there is an opportunity to bring capital that has not yet participated in the market, if we can create the right structures to attract them.

“The type of buildings, the types of occupiers we are trying to attract, will likely be of interest to a top tier of global investors.”

When asked whether it would seek to raise bonds or other forms of financing for the project, Khalfan Belhoul, the vice president of strategy for Dubai Holding, said: “We’re open to discussion as far as funding this project in every way, at the moment. We’ve discussed different kinds of opportunities but we haven’t finalised what approach we are going to take.”


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