x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Abu Dhabi's new financial heart starts to beat

After four years in development, Sowwah Island is preparing to receive its first tenant this month and readies for a grand launch at the end of the year.

Sowwah Square, the new central business district in Abu Dhabi on Sowwah Island, is progressing with its development after a year's delay and is starting to receive its first tenants. ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National )
Sowwah Square, the new central business district in Abu Dhabi on Sowwah Island, is progressing with its development after a year's delay and is starting to receive its first tenants. ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National )

Abu Dhabi's new financial heart on Sowwah Island is about to start beating as it gears up for its grand launch this year.

Q&A on the rise of Abu Dhabi's new financial heart Peter Wilding, associate director of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, discusses the progress of Sowwah Island. Read article

The two towers released to tenants are almost completely taken up, and two of the island's major hotel developments are also nearing completion, said Peter Wilding, the associate director of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality.

"We're almost full within those two towers," he said. "At the moment, I'm very enthusiastic about who has signed up."

Due to Sowwah's ability to attract top-drawer clients, plans for business districts on Saadiyat and Reem islands are now to be re-evaluated to complement rather than compete with the imminent multibillion-dirham financial centre.

Clifford Chance, one of the world's biggest law firms, will become the first tenant to move into Sowwah Square this month, while the remaining pair of towers are expected to be launched soon.

As well as being the home to the new Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), Sowwah Island will have a number of banks, law firms and upmarket hotels.

The Rosewood Hotel, one of the luxury developments being built, is nearing completion. The hotel has appointed a managing director and is now in its planning stages for opening in the middle of next year, while the Four Seasons hotel is in the final stages of procurement, Mr Wilding added.

However, the Galleria, the retail and dining space underneath the hotel, has been delayed, and is now expected to open in 2013, having initially been scheduled for the end of next year.

Commercial projects on Saadiyat and Reem islands will go back to the drawing board until Sowwah Island is up and running - to gauge demand for the other developments.

The Tourism and Development Investment Company (TDIC), has announced plans for a competing business hub at Saadiyat Marina had been mothballed.

"As part of TDIC's strategy to ensure the economic sustainability of our projects, we have hibernated specific projects like our planned central business district in Saadiyat Marina," said Shaun O'Connor, the chief financial officer of TDIC.

The projects have not been cancelled, but would be reassessed when market conditions change, he added.

"When reviewing supply and demand characteristics we do take into account a desire [not to] compete directly with similar Abu Dhabi projects, such as Sowwah Square, as this directly impacts the demand for commercial real estate." Sowwah Square is the linchpin of Sowwah Island, serving as home to the new ADX and four surrounding office towers.

Aspirations for Reem Island to play host to a finance hub have also faded.

"With the advance of Sowwah Island, Tamouh [the developer] is working on integrating the facilities and central business district to support Sowwah Island," said a spokeswoman for Tamouh.

The completed development will instead focus on providing office space instead of attracting banks and other financial services companies, she added.

Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, has received no shortage of offers for the towers on Sowwah Square overlooking the ADX.

ghunter@thenational@ae