Selina Denman speaks to the people behind the latest luxury development to take on the Dubai market.
Trump project Akoya set to make living in Dubai a bit more luxurious
There are many signs of Dubai’s renewed buoyancy — traffic, construction work and malls bursting at the seams, for a start. But of all of the signifiers, it is perhaps the larger-than-life billboards flanking Sheikh Zayed Road advertising luxury property developments that are most reminiscent of the pre-downturn days. And, in recent weeks, one face has dominated these billboards (and countless others across the city): that of the American heiress, former model and business mogul Ivanka Trump.
The daughter of Donald Trump is involved in all aspects of the Trump Organisation’s real-estate arm, has her own fashion, footwear, fine-jewellery and fragrance lines, and is currently looking out over the streets of Dubai as the face of Akoya by Damac, the new golf community being developed along Umm Suqeim Road by the Dubai developer, in association with Trump International. Both Ivanka and her high-profile father made a much-publicised visit to Dubai last month, checking in on progress at the development and, unsurprisingly, declaring it the “greatest golf community in Asia”.
This development is Damac’s most ambitious to date. The 42-million-square-foot community, dubbed “the Beverly Hills of Dubai”, has a sales value of about US$6.5 billion (Dh23.87bn), and will feature 7,000 residential units, including the first Fendi villas in the world, luxury condominiums, and hotel apartments by Paramount, as well as retail, entertainment and hospitality components, all anchored by an 18-hole golf course.
Partnerships with globally recognised brands are not new to Damac, of course. The company realised early on that high-profile brand associations would be instrumental in helping it differentiate itself in a highly competitive market. A report released by Knight Frank at the end of 2012 highlighted that wealthy buyers are willing to pay an average of 31 per cent more for branded residences, as compared to non-branded properties, although, “the rate of uplift ranges from 5.7 per cent in Jakarta to over 50 per cent in several locations”.
According to the report, “the rising profile of design and branding in residential developments, especially at the top of the market, is reflected in the shift in consumer expectations. The branding of residences creates an aspirational model and a reflection of luxury and prestige associated with that brand, helping developers to stand out in a competitive market”.
With this particular trend, Damac has been ahead of the curve. “We realised back in 2010 that a very beneficial addition to our brand was associations with other brands,” says Niall McLoughlin, the senior vice president of Damac Properties.
The first such association came in 2010, when Damac joined forces with Versace — its Versace-branded Damac Tower in Solidere, Beirut, is currently being topped off, while the Versace-branded apartments in Jeddah’s Al Jawharah Tower will be handed over imminently.
“We followed that up with an association with Fendi at the beginning of last year, for three projects: one in Riyadh and two in Dubai. Then we followed that up with Paramount Hotels & Resorts and then with Trump.
“The reason we like to go with associations and partnership is they drive value on the product. We bring to market a branded product at up to 30 per cent price-point premium versus competition in the area. It also brings a selling proposition to the customer. The people in this market, as you know, are very brand conscious. Versace works very well here; Fendi is a different product, but it has a market for very brand-savvy and brand-educated GCC nationals,” says McLoughlin.
When it came to developing the golf course at Akoya, a partnership with Trump International made a lot of sense, McLoughlin explains. “We said: ‘What is a brand that will appeal to our customers, that has a resonance with this market and that can bring value to a golf development?’ And there’s very few in it. Trump International already has the recognised number-one golf course in the world in Scotland.”
But this is more than a simple case of buying the rights to use an internationally recognised name and milking the resultant PR for all it’s worth. While Damac owns the course, which is due to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2015, Trump International is developing it and will also be responsible for running it as part of a 25-year management agreement.
The partnership also extends to include the Trump Estates, an exclusive, private, gated community of 104 luxury villas overlooking the second, third, fourth and eighth holes of the golf course. Priced at between Dh7 million and Dh50m, they are being trumpeted, if you’ll excuse the pun, as the most desirable properties on the market. Which is where Ivanka came in.
Set on a private island within the development, the villas are notable for their clean, contemporary architecture and interiors — all open floor plans, glass facades and neutral colour palettes — and Ivanka was heavily involved their design. “I’m thrilled to be spearheading the design process for the villas in this development,” she tells me, via email.
“We’ve created a beautiful open floor plan that provides views of the 18-hole championship golf course, enhanced by a glass facade and accented by natural materials such as wood, combined with a palette of elegant neutrals. Trump Estates Dubai incorporates elements of classic Middle Eastern design with a more modern approach and maximises the environment to create a space that couples stunning interior and exterior surroundings.”
But in a place like the UAE, where luxury is a byword, what actually sets the Trump Estates apart? “Luxury is always a reflection of the quality of location, physical building and design, but like so much else in today’s world, the standards of luxury are continually evolving and now incorporate adaptability, convenience, technological advances and distinguished amenities.
“We pride ourselves on our ability to provide superior quality while infusing our developments with modern enhancements that allow us to cater to our residents at a heightened level and raise the bar of luxury standards,” Ivanka says.
“The location of the Trump Estates, in the midst of a sprawling 18-hole golf course, is highly unique for Dubai and provides an amazing foreground for the villas, which will feature the glass facade to further emphasise the scenery. The result will truly be a one-of-a-kind luxury experience unlike anything else in the Middle East.”
We’ll have to wait at least a year to find out if this is indeed the case — and if Damac’s latest branding exercise has truly paid off.
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