Cityscape marks a shift in real estate

Abu Dhabi’s property development sector is changing – and that’s a good thing

Abu Dhabi vision 2030 plan on show at Abu Dhabi Cityscape. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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Cityscape started yesterday, and its early moments suggest a positive shift is under way in Abu Dhabi's real estate market. As The National reported yesterday, Aldar Properties, Abu Dhabi's largest listed developer, is focusing on price-conscious investors by launching its second mid-market off-plan housing project on Reem Island, with prices starting at Dh450,000.

Compare this year’s fare with the 2015 Cityscape Abu Dhabi and the difference in price is quite marked. For example, Aldar’s first mid-market project, Shams Meera, on which construction work started in 2016, was launched back then with prices starting at Dh900,000 for one-bedroom apartments.

Such a shift brings better opportunities for both residents and investors. The decline in oil prices and the general slowdown in the economy have left some residents scrambling to find an affordable place to live in, but some of that struggle should be eased by more affordable housing becoming available.

It almost seems a blessed relief too that the excesses of the past, and particularly the prevalence of “buy-to-flip” investors, has passed, to be replaced by “serious” investors interested in long-term returns.

There also seems to be a marked change in tone of the architects’ renderings on display. Cityscape’s past was dominated by fanciful and futuristic representations of the city that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a big budget sci-fi movie and which also left you wondering whether those high-rise buildings and soaring skylines would ever move from vision to reality.

Its present has a cooler and far more realistic hue. The blank canvas and big ideas of yesteryear have been broadly supplanted by a greater focus on the more mundane but no less important themes of transparency, completion dates and delivery schedules. Such nuts and bolts may lack the excitement of old, but they will better serve the city’s future development and its international reputation.

All of that means the strong appetite for investing in smaller off-plan apartments will probably continue. The Gulf remains a dream factory for architects, developers and buyers alike – and Cityscape is the shop floor – but the end product looks far more practical and real world than it used to. And that can only be a good thing.