Aspirational residents of Dubai will be looking to soaring the skies and living in some of the most lavish homes, judging by the latest news from the emirate that has been hitting headlines globally. The trendsetting city is gearing to enter the age of advanced urban mobility in 2026 while its real estate developers are building some of the most sought-after homes designed in partnership with leading fashion and hospitality brands.
At the core of Dubai’s multidimensional developments, however, is a focus on sustainability and wellness. This has been spelt out in its urban masterplan unveiled last year and the multitude of projects that are under way right from renewable energy and waste-to-energy projects to real estate developments. Proposed plans even look at the wellness of inhabitants with one such project – The Loop – envisaging a 93-km sustainable urban highway aiming to become the smartest cycling and running infrastructure anywhere in the world.
Plans to build a vertiport network were approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This could position the city as the world’s first with a fully developed network of vertiports. The network, which could be up and running in the next three years, will connect four main areas of the city: near Dubai International Airport, Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina.
The vision for Dubai’s future air mobility infrastructure network was jointly presented by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Skyports Infrastructure and Joby Aviation at a closed presentation ahead of the start of the World Government Summit, an annual three-day event which brings together international government officials and business leaders (see Page 17).
The emirate seems to have now emerged with full vigour, having put its penchant for creating “superlatives” and “world firsts” on the backburner over the past decade. With most of the essential infrastructure in place to sustain Dubai’s immediate requirements, the government has been concentrating on streamlined planning and development to create vibrant, healthy communities through well-strategised urban masterplans and developing green energy resources.
Real estate developers, meanwhile, have been galvanised into creating ultra-luxurious and branded properties to cater to the rising number of talented and wealthy foreigners that are looking to make Dubai their second home following the emirate opening its doors with its Golden Visa, a long-term residence visa which enables expatriates to live, work or study in the UAE.
High-end real estate is now commanding top prices. For instance, last month, a three-bedroom apartment in the iconic Bulgari Resort and Residences on Jumeirah Bay Island was sold for a whopping AED13,543 per sq ft ($3,687.11), making this transaction the highest recorded price per square foot in the history of the emirate.
According to global property consultant Knight Frank, Dubai registered a record 219 ultra-prime, or $10-million-plus, home sales in 2022, up from just 11 ultra-prime sales in 2010. This surge in demand for luxury property has been propelled by the emirate easing its residency policies.
“The rise of Dubai’s multimillion-dollar homes market over the course of the last two years has been phenomenal. 2022 registered 219 deals above the $10 million mark – more than the total recorded between 2010 and 2020,” says Faisal Durrani, Knight Frank’s Partner – Head of Middle East Research.
“The performance at the top of the market clearly demonstrates the arrival of Dubai as a luxury hub to rival long established markets elsewhere, with no sign to suggest a slowdown in the seemingly relentless demand from global ultra-high-net-worth-individuals (UHNWIs) zeroing in on the emirate in search of second homes. Indeed, our 2023 Global Attitudes Survey shows that amongst the region’s wealthy, the UAE remains the second most likely target for a home purchase this year, behind the UK,” he adds.
Foreign investors too have been grabbing prime property in the emirate. For instance, Dubai's most expensive villa was reported purchased by Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man and Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for a record-breaking $163 million. The 10-bedroom plush residence, with a private spa, indoor and outdoor pools, is a short stroll from the $80-million home that Ambani had reportedly bought for his son Anant earlier last year.
Experts say that the luxury property segment in Dubai will continue to climb this year as prices are expected to sustain an upward trend due to rising demand from UHNWIs, tight supply and fewer launches of new developments, albeit at a slower pace than was seen in the latter half of 2022 (see Page 19).
Meanwhile, government efforts are focused on charting the course for Dubai’s growth with its target of becoming a “20-minute city” being a prime driver, allowing residents access to 80 per cent of their daily needs and destinations within 20 minutes on foot or by bicycle.
HH Sheikh Mohammed approved two key masterplans at the end of last year – the Dubai Countryside and Rural Areas Development Master Plan – in line with Dubai Urban Plan 2040, which was unveiled in September 2021, followed by the second phase of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan.
The rural areas plan, which covers a 2,216-sq-km area, seeks to preserve the nature and make the rural areas of Dubai some of the most beautiful and enjoyable places. The second phase of the urban masterplan consists of several projects under 10 key initiatives, including Enhancing Urban Centres, Dubai Real Estate Strategy, Urban Farming Plan, Preserving Urban Heritage Plan, developing the 20-Minute City Policy, and the Pedestrian Network Master Plan.
Unveiling the new phase, Sheikh Mohammed said: “We have a clear vision for the development of Dubai’s urban infrastructure and housing sector until 2040. Our goal is for Dubai to be an eco- and pedestrian-friendly city, and a city with a high yield from urban agriculture.”
The new phase includes an integrated plan for developing five main urban centres (three existing and two new ones) in Dubai. The plan also prescribes a comprehensive strategy for the emirate’s real estate sector up to 2040 to align it with the requirements of the masterplan and strike a balance between supply and demand.
A key part of the Dubai Urban Master Plan is Expo City Dubai – a legacy project which builds on the momentum and success of the six-month World Expo which concluded in Dubai in March last year. The Expo City is now gearing up to host the next major international event after the conclusion of the Expo 2020 Dubai –the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP28.
Expo City Dubai reopened on October 1 last year as a global destination for living, business and innovation, retaining some of the attractions of the expo. The environment-friendly city features a number of the show’s flagship pavilions, entertainment and technology offerings, and continues to host a diversity of events with the aim of “letting the magic of Expo live on”.
Three of Expo 2020’s most visited attractions – the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, the Garden in the Sky observation tower and the Surreal water feature – remain as have Alif, the Mobility Pavilion and Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion, which live on as interactive educational experiences.
Among other developments, the real estate sector is watching with interest if the $5-billion Moon Resort will actually be built in Dubai. The site of the former Dubai Pearl – which has just been demolished – is one of several site options under consideration for the striking moon-shaped development, with other potential locations also including the Palm Jebel Ali.
Asked about the project and location, Michael R Henderson, Co-Founder of Moon World Resorts, told Gulf Construction: “We continue to review multiple location options within the Mena region including Palm Jebel Ali. Nakheel would be an excellent developer and Palm Jebel Ali sure needs an anchor project.”
Power & Water
Underlining Dubai’s commitment to clean energy is the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) Solar Park, the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the independent power producer (IPP) model. It has a planned production capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, with investments totalling AED50 billion. When completed, it is expected to save over 6.5 million tons of carbon emissions annually.
The project is being spearheaded by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to achieve the goals of Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Net Zero Emissions Strategy 2050 which aim to provide 100 per cent of the emirate’s energy production capacity from clean energy sources by 2050.
Phase One, Two and Three of the MBR Solar Park are now operational providing 1,013 MW of clean energy.
Construction work on the 950-MW fourth phase, being carried out at an investment of AED15.78 billion, is more than 90 per cent complete. This phase uses three hybrid technologies to produce clean energy: 600 MW from a parabolic basin complex, 100 MW from the world’s tallest solar power tower at 262.44 m, and 250 MW from photovoltaic solar panels. On completion, the project will have the largest thermal storage capacity in the world of 15 hours, allowing for energy availability round the clock. This phase will provide clean energy for around 320,000 residences and reduce 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
A consortium led by Dewa and Acwa Power has formed a project company, Noor Energy 1, to design, build and operate the fourth phase of the solar park. Dewa owns 51 per cent of the company while Acwa Power holds 25 per cent, and the Chinese Silk Road Fund owns 24 per cent.
Work is also in progress on the second and third stages of the 900-MW fifth phase which is being implemented with investments totalling AED2.058 billion. This phase will provide clean energy to over 270,000 residences in Dubai and will reduce 1.18 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. It is expected to be commissioned in stages this year.
In the water desalination sector, Dewa’s first project using the independent water project (IWP) model is the 120-million-gallons-per-day (mgpd) Hassyan Sea Water Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) plant. The authority has received expressions of interest (EOIs) from 29 major developer/developer consortiums for the first phase of the project.
Dubai has been witnessing a dramatic surge in the number of ultra-luxurious and branded residences launched in recent months and with projects being sold out virtually within days of launch, every major developer is looking to serve the global ultra-high-net-worth community.
Among the big-ticket developments announced were three huge residential projects with a total value of AED9.5 billion by Al Habtoor Group (AHG).
The first project, located in Al Habtoor City, includes residential towers, with one of them set to be the largest in the world at a development cost of AED4.5 billion. The second project is designed to be “a unique residential development” boasting exceptional amenities in the Habtoor Grand Resort in JBR, with a cost of AED2.5 billion. The last project involves the re-development of the Habtoor Tower in Dubai Marina at a cost of AED2.5 billion into a much larger and ultra-luxurious residential tower.
The trendsetter in the uber-luxury sector is the UAE developer Omniyat with its One at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, which was followed – with much fanfare – by the AVA at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, its second project on Palm Jumeirah.
AVA at Palm Jumeirah will offer 17 ultra-luxury residences, as well as an expansive sky palace spread over multiple floors that is first of its kind in the region, stated the developer. Similar to its neighbour One at Palm Jumeirah, AVA at Palm Jumeirah will also be managed by legendary hospitality brand, Dorchester Collection, making this Palm Jumeirah’s most exclusive residential cluster. Each resident will receive the same services as they would expect to receive in Dorchester Collection’s iconic hotels worldwide.
Leading luxury project developer Damac Properties has hit the headlines regularly over the past year with its project launches. Two major projects announced at the end of last year were the ‘Ibiza’ residential cluster within its Damac Lagoons master development and its latest ultra-luxury branded living experience – Cavalli Couture – overlooking Safa Park along the Dubai Canal.
In October, Damac Properties launched the 41-storey 'Chic Tower' located at the heart of Business Bay, having in September unveiled Gems Estates, an ultra-luxurious collection of high-end five- to seven-bedroom mansions within the Damac Hills community, its first master development with nearly 10,000 residents (see Page 22).
Another major UAE developer Binghatti has joined hands with top watchmaking and jewellery brand Jacob & Company to build its ultra-luxury skyscraper – Burj Binghatti Jacob & Co Residences. The two brands are eyeing the record for the world’s tallest residential structure with this new venture.
The 100-storey tower will offer lavish two- and three-bedroom residences in the heart of Business Bay. The top of Burj Binghatti Jacob & Co Residences will host five of the most luxurious and exclusive penthouses in Dubai.
Meanwhile, MAG of Life, the wellness real estate unit of UAE-based developer MAG Group has launched eight out of the planned 12 mansions at its $1.3-billion independent luxury wellness development, Keturah Resort. The mixed-use Keturah Resort hosts The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Dubai, Creekside – designed by the acclaimed French designer Amar Sabeh and leading Istanbul-based interior design studio, Autoban – in addition to the 12 mansions.
MAG of Life said the luxurious development will be the first in the Mena region to pursue the Well Health-Safety certification for its buildings as part of MAG of Life’s registered ‘Well Community’.
Another major developer Majid Al Futtaim Properties continues to up the luxury quotient at Tilal Al Ghaf, in the heart of new Dubai, which balances luxury resort-style living with a fresh urban feeling. It has recently launched a new ultra-luxury concept, Lanai Island, within the flagship community.
Designed in collaboration with award-winning South African architect firm Saota and world-renowned Kelly Hoppen Interiors, Lanai Island aims to offer a secluded retreat comprising a limited release of 13 luxurious mega-mansions, including four Edge and nine Shore mansions.
Construction work is currently under way on Majid Al Futtaim key projects Aura and Aura Gardens at Tilal Al Ghaf, following the recent appointment of a contractor to build the 808 villas set across these two distinct neighbourhoods.
Meanwhile, Select Group is developing the ultra-luxurious Six Senses Residences development on Palm Jumeirah. Spread over a 1.2-million-sq-ft area, it comprises penthouses, duplex sky villas and nine signature beachfront villas in addition to a Six Senses Hotel and Six Senses Place as well as a 60,000-sq-ft premium wellness and leisure facility.
Another major project in Select Group’s portfolio is Peninsula, a mixed-use development in Business Bay comprising residential, commercial offices, retail, leisure, and hospitality developments with a total estimated built-up area of 5.5 million sq ft. The developer early this year awarded contracts worth over AED3 billion for the construction of the Six Senses Residences project and Peninsula One, Two, Three and Five towers.
Among the most active in the market, Azizi Developments has a wide range of projects in its portfolio, right from a luxury community at Golf District in Dubai South to Riviera, its flagship waterfront community project in MBR City.
Azizi last year sold more than 6,000 units, worth AED5.6 billion and is now set for handover of 11,000 units across 45 projects in Dubai later this year.
It has signed up KEO International Consultants for the masterplan consultancy of its recently acquired 15-million-sq-ft plot of land in Dubai South which is being designed to be a mega AED20-billion mixed-use development.
Riviera, meanwhile, is designed to introduce the French-Mediterranean lifestyle to Dubai and comprises 71 mid-rise buildings which will have approximately 16,000 residences upon its completion.
The Dubai-based master developer Nakheel: is reported to have revived plans for its two other major “Palm” island developments which were initiated with the Palm Jumeirah in the early 2000s.
In August last year, Nakheel unveiled a new vision for Dubai Islands – previously first known as Palm Deira and then as Deira Islands - which is aimed to redefine the concept of waterfront living. Comprising five islands with a total area of 17 sq km, Dubai Islands have been designed to enhance the wellbeing and lifestyles of residents and visitors.
With over 20 km of beaches, including a Blue Flag-certified beach in addition to 2 sq km of parks and open spaces and premium golf courses overlooking the Arabian Gulf, Dubai Islands will increase the length of beaches and areas dedicated to public parks, stated the master developer.
Nakheel is also reported to be seeking a contractor to complete the reclamation works on Palm Jebel Ali.
Among other developments, the master developer recently launched a new selection of residences at Palm Beach Towers 3, featuring over 300 units.
Meanwhile, developers from the other UAE emirates such as Aldar and Sharjah-based developer Arada are making forays into the Dubai market. Aldar Properties has signed a joint venture agreement with Dubai Holding to develop new real estate projects across prime locations in the emirate and Arada has ventured into the market with a luxury villa collection – Jouri Hills at the 40-million-sq-ft Jumeirah Golf Estates, featuring 294 high-end units – ranging from three-bed townhouses to luxurious six-bedroom mansions.
GCC developers have also entered Dubai to develop branded residences in tune with the market demand. One noteworthy Saudi developer is Dar Global which has already launched two such developments - DaVinci tower located in Downtown Dubai and Urban Oasis residential tower on Dubai Water Canal (see Page 25).
Dubai’s buoyant real estate market has also drawn interest from global investors, the most recent instance being from Discovery Land, a renowned US-based luxury real estate developer and operator of private residential club communities, which has acquired land in Dubai South for the development of a luxurious 2-sq-km golf community.
Discovery Land has purchased a plot of land worth AED1 billion for the premium community development, which will boast mansions, villas, an 18-hole golf course as well as other premier amenities on completion, thus becoming one of the top golf course communities in the region.