cityscape

UAE’s real estate development formula needs a makeover

For 20 years developers have stuck to creations that chase after investors, says Imkan chief

15:42 September 12, 2017

Dubai: It may be time to do away with the formula that real estate developers have been using for 20 years.

“The market had found a formula 20 years ago... but forgot to advance with the times,” said Walid Al Hindi, CEO of Abu Dhabi based Imkan, which came into being as the real estate arm of Abu Dhabi Capital Group. “That means it’s time for reworking it. There are so many new ways to introduce real estate in the country. Unfortunately, most people have been reaching investors. But is anything being done to appeal to a buyer from the inside?

Under 34 years

“Between 65-70 per cent of the population are under 34 years, and if you take just the expats, that’s about 65 per cent. Are developers doing a good job understanding those people? Do they know how they live or what they want? These are the prospective buyers left behind in the 20-year formula.”

The Imkan CEO makes it clear that he is not into just the talking. The developer has created an in-house research team to go into the minutest details of what prompts buyers, especially among the younger ones, to get into property. And the extent of this understanding is not restricted to matters of real estate. Even the minutiae of a buyer’s personal habits could help with the project being planned and created.

Research fashion

“We have to research fashion, the psychology and things like the kind of social platforms one visits,” said Al Hindi. “We don’t do anything without having that research delivered on the table... and we use designers who use the same research methods that we do.”

And what of the actual projects in the Imkan portfolio? It is putting up the ‘Makers District’ on Al Reem Island, for which it has just appointed Ramboll as lead consultant for the first phase. The Dh120 million contract also marks the formal launch of the District, spread over 18-hectares. The project has an overall construction value of Dh2 billion.

1,000 residential units

“The Makers District is going to ground this month and will have more than 1,000 residential units, an ‘art hotel’, office space for 120,000 square metres mainly geared to young professionals,” said Al Hindi. “We don’t think Reem Island is too mature in its development for a project such as this. With Makers District, we want to create the heart of the city in Abu Dhabi.”

The first residential units go on sale later this year.