Work on one of Dubai's biggest office schemes is set to restart as the city's crippled office market begins to return to life.
Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), the company that owns the 39-storey Sheikh Rashid Tower, pictured on the Dh100 note and famed during the 1970s and 1980s as the country's tallest building, announced yesterday that it was set to recommence work on the first phase of a plan to develop a new business quarter on a nearby 146,000 square metre site.
According to the announcement, posted by the Emirates News Agency Wam, the company is also in the process of redesigning the rest of the original ambitious master plan for the entire site between the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre and Emirates Towers to "respond to market dynamics".
Construction of the planned Dubai Trade Centre District has been on hold since early 2010 because of the global financial crisis. However, after a DWTC board meeting last week, the DWTC chairman, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, approved the restart.
DWTC said that office occupancy levels in the area between Sheikh Rashid Tower and Burj Khalifa were about 85 per cent - far higher than the wider Dubai market - and is forecast to rise above 90 per cent over the coming year.
"There is now demand for prime office space in the area, particularly from large multinational corporations looking to consolidate and companies who are outgrowing their existing offices," said Helal Saeed Almarri, the DWTC chief executive.
"Just as this first stage is designed to satisfy clearly defined opportunities, revising the wider master plan and adopting a multi-phased approach gives us the flexibility to ensure that plans for the Dubai Trade Centre District are able to respond to evolving market dynamics," he added.
Designs for the first phase of the project were originally drawn up by Hopkins Architects and WSP back in 2006 for two hotels, more than 2,000 apartments and 250,000 square metres of offices with shops and car parking spaces.
Al Jaber Engineering and Contracting was awarded the Dh3.4 billion (US$925.7 million) construction contract to build the project in 2008 but was told to down tools in 2009.
In 2008, the company launched an international design competition for the second phase of the business district, including plans for a so-called Landmark Tower that was described at the time as "one of the most striking structures ever developed in the region". However, progress on this was also halted during the financial crisis.
DWTC said that construction work on a 588-room hotel, an office block and two mixed use towers would start in the third quarter of this year. It said that the office block was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015 and the hotel was due to open in 2016. Construction of the two mixed use buildings was set to start next year and 2015, and to complete within 30 months.
"This is a sensible move by DWTC," said Ian Albert, the regional director at Colliers International's Middle East and North Africa office. "The overall picture for Dubai office space is significantly better than it was this time last year. There are a lot of companies that have been sitting on their hands for four years and are now looking to take advantage of better accommodation and cheaper rates and over the coming three years demand will increase significantly."