x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Property model makers happy to be back in the big time

Model makers in Dubai are starting to see business improve after a dire two years.

Rony Hobeika, Art Heir's managing director, says that things are getting better in the property market, especially since the beginning of the summer. Jaime Puebla / The National
Rony Hobeika, Art Heir's managing director, says that things are getting better in the property market, especially since the beginning of the summer. Jaime Puebla / The National

Business is starting to pick up for Dubai's scale model makers after a disastrous two years that resulted in 80 per cent of the specialist firms going out of business because of the property crash.

The companies, which specialise in creating detailed and increasingly sophisticated models of master plans and proposed schemes for property developers, are reporting an uptick in business as life begins to return to Dubai's troubled property sector.

Art Heir Model Making, based in Sharjah, which with its sister companies, currently employs only about a third of the 85 staff it retained during the property boom, is reporting an increase in forward orders. This will mean that the number of models his firm is booked to make next year increases by nearly a third from 60 this year to 80.

Its rival model maker 3dr, whose Dubai office staff numbers have been halved to 60 since 2008, says that business has increased since the summer and that it was commissioned to build seven new models for Dubai's Cityscape property exhibition this month. These included a 10 metre by 8 metre model of Meraas Holdings' The Beach development at the Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai.

Pipers Models, an international firm of model makers headquartered in the United Kingdom that all but pulled out of the UAE during the downturn, said it was considering rebuilding its Dubai operation as demand from property developers improved.

And as the Dubai property market returns, model makers report that projects that, like their real life counterparts had been shelved, are being dusted off by developers and re-displayed.

Art Heir is currently completing a model of Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi that was approved last year and then halted. And its 11-metre high model of Nakheel's plans for the Harbour Tower, which at 1.2 kilometres, would have been the world's tallest tower was being kept in the company's storage until May. Nakheel was paying Dh30,000 (US$8,167) a month to keep the model in storage.

"Things are getting better in the property market, especially since the beginning of the summer," said Rony Hobeika, Art Heir's managing director. "2012 was a slow year. But now I'm fully booked until February. The number of inquiries is almost three times more than it was last year. For forward orders we expect even more."

"As model makers we tend to know more about the future than the present," said 3dr Models' chief executive Dani Bterrani. "We are seeing on a daily basis some new inquiries in the UAE as developers start work again. For the last three years all we really did was to refurbish old models. But now we are back building new projects."

lbarnard@thenational.ae