Business picks up for UAE property model makers

Companies tasked with making scale models to announce developments in Dubai report business is picking up.

Dani Bterrani, the chief executive of 3dr models, says there has been a huge uptake in business in the past year. Christopher Pike / The National
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DUBAI // It is life in miniature. The streets are filled with tiny cars, parked in front of tiny villas each with tiny swimming pools. And everything is perfect – as you would expect from a model.

This sprawling, three-dimensional vision is of a development that was once intended for Abu Dhabi, and all of it is in precise, mathematical proportion.

“Even the grass has to be at the correct scale,” said Dani Bterrani, chief executive of 3dr models.

His company makes architectural scale models of property developments, which are then displayed at exhibitions such as Cityscape.

For the past four years the company, along with other model makers, has struggled as the property market in Dubai experienced a downturn. But in the past year there has been a huge uptake in business, the first sign of market recovery.

“We know what’s happening in the market before anyone else,” Mr Bterrani said. “If it’s doing well, we do well, too. In the last year, it’s really started to pick up again.”

The company, which has its head office in Hong Kong, went from having about 30 per cent of its business come from Dubai in 2008, to about 5 per cent. That is now increasing towards 10 per cent.

“It doesn’t have the same bang it had in 2008,” Mr Bterrani said. “But I can see now that the projects have been really studied, in terms of architecture and infrastructure.

“It’s much more professional than it was during the boom.”

At the peak in 2008, there were as many as 60 companies making similar models. Only a fraction remain, according to Fayaz Vozeem, business-development manager at Euphoria Model Makers.

“There were so many companies before and now many of them have simply disappeared,” he said.

Mr Vozeem said most of the firm’s work ahead of Cityscape, to be held in October this year, involved reformatting existing models.

“They are being brought out again and revised to make them more feasible,” he said. “The designs have been realigned reflecting the needs of the new market, with a more realistic picture of potential investment.”

Mr Bterrani said some projects were being radically altered, with as much as 80 per cent of the original design being changed.

The company is also working on seven multimillion-dirham models reflecting major new announcements due to be made at the property event.

The secret developments were all on a huge scale, he said.

“Dubai is in for a big surprise this year. They have more wow factor than those of five years ago, which weren’t as well thought out. These developments are very logical, very professionally designed and more impressive because of that.”

Craig Plumb, head of research for the region at Jones Lang LaSalle, said the announcements could include the second phase of Mohammed Bin Rashid City. The first phase, valued at Dh21 billion, was announced in November last year and will include 1,500 luxury villas and 7 kilometres of man-made lagoons and beaches.

“I would certainly expect other phases of that project to be announced at Cityscape,” Mr Plumb said, and with the property market picking up again, model makers have a bright few years ahead.

“If their business is picking up, it’s an indication that the property market is picking up,” he added.

“The supply pipeline is increasing, particularly in Dubai.

“There are major new announcements on a regular basis and that’s certainly going to be a positive for the model makers.”