Aldar has agreed to waive rents for 2012 at its newly-built Motorworld scheme in Shamkah, Abu Dhabi after tenants at the purpose-built car showroom complex said they were struggling.
In an interview with Abu Dhabi television, Talal Al Dhiyebi, the director of planning and infrastructure at Abu Dhabi's largest property developer, said the move had been made as "a token of support" to around 100 tenants at the recently built complex.
The response comes after tenants called for more support to attract business to the scheme, located close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, such as shops, banks, petrol stations and supermarkets.
"This gesture from Aldar was well received by the Motorworld tenants," Mr Al Dhiyebi told The National."We are hoping that 2013 will be a great year for all the tenants at Motorworld, especially with all the new facilities we have planned for opening up within the first few months.
"Since Aldar launched the motorworld marketing campaign a few months ago, tenants have reported positive results with increased activity and footfall," he added.
Aldar said that it would not collect any rent accrued by the businesses between the date in which they moved into the facility and December 31.
Aldar officials were unable to give the average rent for the complex but tenants interviewed by The National yesterday said that they were paying annual rents of around Dh150,000 (US$40,836) to Dh180,000.
The rent-free offer follows a number of meetings held between Aldar and Motorworld tenants demanding action from the developer to increase the number of visitors at the new complex which is also intended to ultimately include homes for 36,000 people, a three-star hotel and restaurants. Last year, showrooms in the city centre were asked to move from their original locations to the new facility as part of a plan to consolidate the Abu Dhabi car industry in one place, free up parking spaces and relieve congestion.
The showrooms estate, which was completed last year after being put on hold during the market slow down, is certainly modern with clean pavements and carefully laid out street lighting.
However, when visited yesterday lunchtime, only a handful of prospective buyers were seen to be looking at the rows of neatly parked cars.
"It is good but it is not enough," said Ahmed Al Zoubi, the owner of Al Jabri Car Sale & Purchase who moved his showroom to the gleaming new facility from its original location on Airport Road last year and who pays Dh167,000 a year in rent.
"We don't want to go back to Abu Dhabi but we want something to be done to increase the numbers of customers. We want more advertising and a sign in Arabic to tell people where we are. For too many people Motorworld sounds like it is a theme park like Ferrari World and not everybody speaks English."
He added that since the move, customer numbers at his business had fallen from around 15 a month to around five as customers avoided the long drive by visiting showrooms in Mussaffah or visiting car auctions. "There are no services for the cars," he said. "They have that in Mussaffah."
Despite admiring the facilities, customers also complained about the new location.
"It's really good to come and look at the cars here and it's probably the only place in Abu Dhabi where you can come and see the cars and test drive them but there is a problem with the distance," said Ahmed Bin Jabara, who was shopping for a Honda with his friend Saaf Al Shamsi. "We are locals, we live in Abu Dhabi but it has taken us a long time to reach here and we did spend about an hour trying to find it."
Aldar said that in March it would be opening a service centre at the scheme which would comprise banks, insurance companies, prayer rooms and other facilities and added that it had already embarked on a marketing campaign to promote the scheme.
[ lbarnard@thenationalae ]