Fred Durie, the chief executive of developer Nshama, has said that it is looking to expedite works to complete the centrepiece of its 300-acre Town Square by 2020.
Mr Durie said that it will look to begin work on the first third of the 37,000 square metre central square in the third or fourth quarters of this year.
“That will be ready in 2018. We are looking at maybe expediting all of this [central park]. This could be two years later, by 2020,” he told The National.
Once complete, the central square will be the size of 16 football pitches and contain an outdoor cinema in the middle.
It will be overlooked by a Vida hotel, retail units, and both high and low-rise residential units.
Town Square is a 2.9 million sq metres master planned community that will eventually contain 3,000 townhouses and 18,000 apartments on a site bordering Al Qudra Road and Emirates Road. Mr Durie said that Nshama had made “some great progress” on the site in the 12 months since its launch last April.
“On the infrastructure side, all of the top of the site and down through the park, the deep services are in [and] shallow services will finish in September – it’s about 50 per cent to 60 per cent complete already.”
In terms of the homes, 1,050 townhouses are under construction – 320 within the Zahra district and 730 in Hayat. The first of these are likely to be handed over in September 2017.
Work on the first 1,100 apartments is also progressing, and these are likely to be handed over in phases from late 2017 through to early 2018. A sales launch for the next 600 apartments is expected “in a week or two”, Mr Durie added.
Virtually all of the 2,000 units launched so far have sold out, with one-bed apartments starting from Dh614,888 and three-bed townhouses at just below Dh1 million.
Nshama is also in the final stage of negotiations with the operators of two schools that will be built close to its Emirates Road junction.
“We’ve made sure the operators are aware that these are middle income homes, so they will be priced so that these people can afford to send their children here,” he said.
He added that designs for other town houses had been completed and that launches for these could take place later this year or early next year, but overall the development is still on track to meet its 10-year build-out plan.
“We want to launch 2,000 units a year and to build 2,000 units a year to keep it running.”
A white paper produced by property consultancy JLL last year argued that there is a shortage of middle-income housing across the Middle East, with about 3.5 million homes needed in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to fill this gap. It highlighted the Nshama project as an example of successful private sector delivery. However, earlier this week Core, a UAE associate of Savills, stated that even these schemes were out of reach of most lower-income families.
The Core chief executive David Godchaux argued that many schemes that had been considered affordable several years ago became unattainable as prices boomed and improving infrastructure boosted the appeal of those schemes once considered to be fringe locations.
“The city is pushing its limits further and further,” he said.
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