x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

View from the capital's tallest towers

The Sky and Sun towers are days away from reaching their final height on Reem Island.

ABU DHABI // The Sky and Sun towers are days away from reaching their final height on Reem Island, making them the tallest buildings in the capital. From the vantage of the 70th floor of the Sky Tower, Samer Abu-Hijleh, the chief operations officer of Sorouh, said construction work on the island was starting to pick up.

"With the economic challenges of the last few months, things have taken a slower pace," he said. "We are glad to see in the next month or so, the restart of some actions which are very encouraging." More than 6,400 labourers are working in shifts around the clock on the high-rise buildings. The Sky Tower will rise more than 300 metres and have 74 storeys of residences and offices. The Sun Tower, which is mostly residential, will rise 65 storeys.

The buildings, along with Marina Square on the other side of the island, will be among the first freehold apartments available for buyers to move into on Reem Island next March. Sun and Sky are the first part of Sorouh Real Estate's 134.6-hectare Shams Abu Dhabi development on the island. Earlier this year, Tameer Towers, a five-building project in Shams Abu Dhabi, was put on hold by Tameer Holding while it renegotiated construction contracts. Last week, the company announced it had come to new agreements with two of the original three contractors and would proceed with construction.

Viewing Reem Island from the upper floors of the Sky Tower shows areas of bustling construction and others where little work is under way. Some of the sub-developers, including Hydra Properties and Tameer Holding, have started initial work on their towers. Marina Square, a group of 15 buildings by Tamouh Investment, and the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi campus are making rapid progress. On the other hand, the Najmat Abu Dhabi master development by Reem Investments on the southern part of the island shows little activity.

Work has already begun on a new road that will link Sun and Sky towers along with the Sorbonne and Marina Square with the main bridge that connects to 11th Street in downtown Abu Dhabi. The Sorbonne is scheduled to open in the autumn before any other building on the island. Even though the Sun and Sky Towers are nearly structurally complete, the buildings as a whole are only about 60 per cent finished. After the concrete is poured and the windows put up, the truly difficult work begins in the interior, said Michael Foster, the director of projects at Sorouh.

"When you are doing the structure, you just have to deal with concrete and steel guys," he said. "On the inside, you have a lot more people to co-ordinate: plaster, marble, electric, plumbing, ceramics, mechanical and so on. It's a lot to handle and it can be time consuming." Sorouh will not keep the title of tallest building in the capital for long. The Landmark, a government tower that is quickly rising beside the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority on the Corniche, will reach 324 metres and Aldar Properties' Central Market Residential Tower is planned to be 382 metres tall. In the Najmat master development on Reem Island, there are plans for another set of 300-metre buildings called The Wings.

Sorouh's project is coming up to completion at a time when prices in Abu Dhabi are declining. The consultancy Landmark Advisory said in a report earlier this month that prices dropped by as much as 30 per cent in the first quarter of the year. The average sale price for apartments in Abu Dhabi fell by up to 20 per cent in the first quarter and 30 per cent for villas compared with the previous quarter.

All the same, Landmark said, with a conservative 2 per cent population growth model for this year and next, Abu Dhabi's property market would still be undersupplied by 27,900 units. At a 6 per cent population growth rate, the housing shortage would reach 45,000 units, the company said. bhope@thenational.ae