First look: Inside Discovery Dunes project in Dubai where plots cost up to $50m

Developer says prices at its exclusive development have risen by 25% since its launch in December

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Discovery Dunes, a new ultra-luxury development that has been launched in Dubai and is selling land plots for up to $50 million, is registering strong demand, according to its developer.

Prices at the project – to which The National had exclusive access – have increased 25 per cent since it was soft-launched less than three months ago by US-based Discovery Land Company, which operates 35 high-end residential communities globally.

The members-only community in Dubai South will contain 198 mansions and villas, 132 apartments, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course and several luxury amenities.

The two-square-kilometre development is minutes away from the Jetex private jet terminal at Dubai World Central.

The lots, which come without a villa, start at $7.5 million – up from $6 million when the development was launched in December.

Buyers then choose one of Discovery Land's Olson Kundig designs for villas, starting at Dh2,500 ($700) per square foot, or approved custom designs for their villas, which are expected to start at around Dh1,500 per square foot.

Among the most expensive lots is one in the centre of the development, priced at around $50 million, said Mohammed Alawadhi, chief executive of Discovery Land Company Middle East.

We have 50 per cent of the first phase sold and we have prospects in the pipeline
Mohammed Alawadhi, Discovery Land Company Middle East

There's an annual management fee for buyers that pays for the multitude of services offered on-site, including doctors and wellness specialists.

Mr Alawadhi declined to disclose how much it is but insisted it hasn't been an issue. “The only answer we hear from our members is, 'Oh, is that it?'” he told The National.

Interest has been strong, with about half of the initial release of 55 plots bought by “an interesting mix of European, Middle East and US buyers”, he said.

“We have 50 per cent of the first phase sold and we have prospects in the pipeline,” said Mr Alawadhi, former head of real estate of Dubai South Properties.

Discovery, which acquired the plot of land in Dubai South's golf community for Dh1 billion in 2022, expects the site will generate approximately $6 billion in total sales.

The developer has completed work on its first amenity, the Lakehouse. The farm-to-table restaurant and bar overlooks the 11th hole and is close to a variety of lake-focused recreational activities, including swimming and paddle boarding.

Up to 70 per cent of the project is set aside for common space, open greenery and the golf course, which will be limited to members and their friends. This will mean very little waiting for a tee, Mr Alawadhi said.

Discovery Dunes also has a wellness centre and spa, equestrian centre, organic farm, adventure park and kids club, and a trail that circumnavigates the site.

A major emphasis has been placed on Discovery Land's “comfort stations” that are dotted around the golf course, offering drinks and snacks. They include peanut butter and jam sandwiches that staff are given particular training on how to make.

“You will have a fully dedicated concierge – we call the member services – that will be an extension of your life,” Mr Alawadhi said.

“They can book your table at Zuma. They can get you tickets to go attend the Tennis Open. They can book your golf lessons.”

Members will also have access to Discovery Downtown, a rooftop private members club at the Edition Hotel, Downtown Dubai.

The club, which has its own lift, includes a restaurant and lounge, a private dining room and a golf simulator.

Selling in phases

There is no rush to sell the plots, and Discovery plans to release them in phases over the next five years.

“We just started selling two months ago and with no advertising and very much a whisper approach, we reached 50 per cent [sales on the first phase]. This is significant. So we don't have a worry when it comes to that,” Mr Alawadhi said.

“We're not as condensed as the other developments in Dubai. In Dubai, it's no surprise when you hear projects sold out, with 2,000 units sold out in a few months or a few weeks, sometimes hundreds in an hour.

“That's not the concern. Our objective is to find the right members, the right relationships so that they become part of this incredible community.”

Expansion plans

Dubai's luxury home market reached record levels in 2023, with sales of $10 million-plus homes nearly doubling in value and outstripping global rivals London and New York, property consultancy Knight Frank said last month.

Dubai's super-prime market – properties valued at $25 million-plus – also recorded a surge last year, with 56 deals worth $2.3 billion – double the previous year's total.

Mr Alawadhi expects to see the prime end of the property market continue to grow for at least another 10 years.

“It's is honestly extremely positive,” he said. “I see there is a huge opportunity for Dubai to excel more.

“We're still sitting way less than cities that we can compare ourselves with, Singapore or Hong Kong, in terms of pricing and supply.”

Investors are also more educated, he said.

“They know where to put their money and the regulators and the government are working so hard and making sure the investors are fully protected.”

Discovery Dunes is the first of many planned operations in the Middle East, Mr Alawadhi said.

“We're here to be part of this growth and we're here to expand.”

Updated: February 24, 2024, 6:51 AM