Abu Dhabi’s urban planners working on ways to restart stalled Reem Island projects

'Reem Island is beautiful but it is been underestimated. This island can be easily rectified by different decisions, so we will be doing that exercise.'

Above, the Urban Planning Council’s display during Cityscape in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
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Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is working on a plan to restart stalled property developments on Reem Island.

According to UPC officials, the planning body is looking at ways to encourage property developers to restart construction work on a handful of unfinished towers on the island that were hit by the global financial crisis.

“We are in the final stages of providing a recommendation for the way forward for these problems in Reem Island,” said Mohamed Al Khadar, the UPC’s executive director for Urban Development and Estidama Sector, at the Cityscape property exhibition in Abu Dhabi yesterday. “What the recommendation is I cannot disclose to you right now, but we will present it to the leadership of the government and then they will give us the mandate to go ahead and do it. This is one of our priorities.” he said.

“Reem Island is beautiful but it is been underestimated. This island can be easily rectified by different decisions, so we will be doing that exercise.”

As the bottom fell out of the property market in late 2008 and prices plunged, investors walked away from their commitments and property finance dried up, leaving developers unable to continue with billions of dirhams worth of development plans.

Property experts predict that the UPC’s plans may be similar to the Tanmia initiative from the Dubai Land Department that it launched in 2011 and where the DLD acts as a mediator between the developers of stalled projects and new developers and investors interested in restarting them.

At the end of last year, DLD reported that it had helped to restart 51 stalled projects worth Dh12 billion since the initiative was launched four years earlier.

“Reem Island clearly needs something like this,” said Craig Plumb, the head of research at JLL’s Dubai office. “However, the problem will be injecting the funding to get these towers finally built.”

According to figures from JLL’s Cityscape presentation, the UPC is scaling back its 2030 master plan for the capital with the city’s projected population for that year revised downwards to 2.4 million from an expected 3.1 million people when the plan was first published.

Mr Al Khadar said that 27 projects and master plans were approved by the UPC in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the final three months of last year, bringing the total number of approvals last year to 101.

This annual total accounted for a total floor area of 13.5 million square metres – 26 per cent more than in 2014.

Projects approved in the final quarter of last year included three Reem Island projects – the 185,000 square metre Reem Mall, 574 apartments in Najmat Towers and 408 apartments in Shams Meera.

They also include the first phase of a new development on Al Fahid Island, located between Saadiyat and Yas islands on the capital’s Sheikh Khalifa Highway.

Mr Al Khadar said that the UPC had given approval to 59 projects in Abu Dhabi that were allowed to exhibit and to sell units to customers at Cityscape and nine which were allowed to exhibit but not currently to sell units.


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