Union Properties' delayed Dh1.1 billion Vertx project to start next year

Ahmed Al Marri, the general manager of Dubai-based Union Properties, has said the developer is hoping to start its delayed five-tower Vertx scheme in Motor City by the middle of next year.

The developer had initially launched the Dh1.1bn, 1.3-million-square foot project at Cityscape Global in 2014, proposing a start on site in 2015 and completion by February 2018.

Mr Al Marri said that detailed designs and feasibility studies for the project are complete, but it has not yet started the project due to weaker market conditions and a decision to focus on schemes, such as the nearby Oia project, which are easier to deliver. “It is the market. You know when you want to start something you do your study, right? We did the feasibility study and the market research – where are investors going now? what are they thinking? which kind of projects do they need?

“After we saw all of that, the board decided just to delay this project a little bit and then start with another one like Oia.”

He said that he could not give a definite date for when Vertx would be delivered, only that the company will look to restart the project by “the middle of 2017”.

“After we are doing the tender and choosing the contractor, at that time we will say how long it will take.”

Mr Al Marri said that a slowdown in the wider economy had affected Dubai’s real estate market, but that he expected a return to growth next year.

“In 2014-15, the curve has gone down. Now, in 2016 we saw there is a kind of stability. I expect from the start of 2017 the curve will go up. But it will not reach the point in 2005/06.”

He said that work had progressed well at Oia Residences – a 269-unit, Dh450m apartment scheme being built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), which was appointed in May this year.

Work at that site is already 30 per cent complete, with delivery due by the end of next year.

“We are choosing people who have an ability to finish the project. Not a small contractor who will say ‘I don’t have the money to finish’. Their [CSCEC’s] reputation is international. So we are choosing the right company.”

Work on Union’s Green Community West project – a Dh680m community of 210 townhouses that was also launched at Cityscape in 2014 – is 40 per cent complete.

It is being built by Indian-headquartered contractor Shapoorji Pallonji. A YouGov Middle East Real Estate Barometer survey of more than 1,700 respondents across the GCC and Egypt found that 47 per cent expected a decline in sales prices in the UAE this year.

However, 36 per cent of respondents expect the market to return to growth next year.

YouGov research director Lara Al Barazi said that real estate was the favoured investment class of more than half (53 per cent) of respondents – significantly ahead of equities (13 per cent) and precious metals (11 per cent).

Dubai was named the most appealing city for real estate investment by 64 per cent of respondents. Abu Dhabi came second with 8 per cent citing it as their first choice, while the Saudi Arabian cities of Riyadh and Mecca were joint-third, with each gaining 5 per cent of first choice preferences.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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