x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Downsized Dubailand development sparks fury

Home buyers in the Remraam project in Dubai say the project is nothing close to the community they were promised.

The Remraam apartment project, which is surrounded by empty desert. Jaime Puebla / The National
The Remraam apartment project, which is surrounded by empty desert. Jaime Puebla / The National

Angry buyers in one of the largest apartment projects in Dubailand are demanding refunds and threatening to sue, claiming the project about to be delivered is nothing like the oasis they were promised.

Promotional materials for Remraam touted extensive landscaping, large swimming pools, community centres, shopping malls and proximity to Dubailand's proposed amusement parks. Eighty-three per cent of the grounds would be covered by greenery, the ads said.

But as the developer Mizin, a subsidiary of Dubai Properties Group (DPG), prepares to begin handing over the first of 3,000 apartments in the next few weeks, none of those elements have been built. There is no landscaping or recreational facilities, and the project is surrounded by empty desert for kilometres in every direction.

"It's not habitable, and it won't be for some time," said Amit Gupta, a banker who paid a deposit in 2008 on a Dh1.2 million (US$327,000) two-bedroom apartment in the first phase. "That is not what we paid for."

The developer insists Remraam, named after a plant that grows naturally in the UAE, will eventually live up to the glossy brochures distributed during the height of Dubai's property boom. Landscaping and the other amenities are still in the plans, a spokesman said.

"DPG is committed to this project, which will be delivered in accordance to initial expectations," said a DPG spokesman. "However, a community takes time to mature."

Remraam includes 56 buildings, ranging from five to seven storeys. Original plans called for about 200 residential buildings, part of Dubailand's network of projects surrounding amusement parks and the Mall of Arabia, designed to be the world's largest shopping mall.

Most of the projects around Remraam, including the Mall of Arabia, the $1.1 billion Tiger Woods Dubai residential development and the amusement parks, were put on hold after the global financial crisis.

Remraam was downsized and construction delayed on many of the buildings. Buyers of units that have stalled have been offered ones in buildings closer to completion.

"Mizin only delayed buildings due to non-payment from customers," the DPG spokesman said. "All customers who fulfilled their contractual payment obligations received the units they booked or alternatives as agreed mutually."

But Rizwan Butt said he stopped making payments when it became clear no construction was taking place on his building.

"They want the rest of the payments, but I don't see a single brick," said Mr Butt, who made a down payment on a Dh1.7m three-bedroom apartment in 2008.

"Why should I pay?" he said. "What they have promised is completely not what is getting delivered."

Some buyers said they would demand refunds if their apartments were not delivered by the end of last month, as stated in their contracts.

"I'm happy to lose my 5 per cent [deposit]," said one buyer, who asked not to be named. "I'd rather that than be in a project in the middle of the desert."

kbrass@thenational.ae