x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Work to restart on Reem towers

The developer for a delayed Reem Island project says work will resume next year, even as investors seek legal action to get their money back.

The Tameer Towers construction site on Reem Island after building workers went on strike over unpaid salaries.
The Tameer Towers construction site on Reem Island after building workers went on strike over unpaid salaries.

ABU DHABI // A stalled development on Reem Island is expected to restart early next year, even as dozens of the project's investors plan legal action to get their money back.

A senior official for Tameer Holding Investment, the developer of the Dh7billion Tameer Towers project, this week said construction on two of the buildings would resume next year, with a projected delivery in the fourth quarter of 2013.

"We will be communicating this directly to our customer base in the coming weeks," the official said.

Work on the Tameer Towers project, part of the Shams Abu Dhabi development, stopped in July when labourers went on strike over not being paid.

The contractor, Al Rajhi Projects, has since laid off nearly all of its workers and roads to the site were closed this month.

The development was initially expected to include four residential and commercial buildings and a five-star hotel.

The first units were scheduled to be handed over this year, although a new timetable released last year set a date of early 2013.

The Tameer official said the first phase, including two towers, was 21 per cent complete.

Former workers said they were told work on these two buildings would proceed but the rest of the project was under review.

"Tower A has now reached structural level 13 and Tower B is at structural level 4," the official said. "The majority of the most complex structural elements are behind us."

Next month, more than 65 investors are expected to start arbitration after a grace period for taking legal action runs out.

Investors say their money should be returned because Tameer stopped construction and provided no progress reports or status updates on the project for more than six months.

One investor in Abu Dhabi said she had sunk all of her savings into paying off 50 per cent, or Dh600,000, for one unit in Tower B.

Now she said she worried she would never see a completed apartment or her money back.

"Yes, I made a bad investment decision," she said. "I didn't do my research but the property market was booming at the time.

"I'm calm now but that's because I just can't cry and wail any more. I'm just dry."

Another investor, who lives outside the UAE, said he doubted the project would resume construction next year or ever.

"I have no faith in this project being finished," he said. "Who are they going to get to buy these units? Who will want to be associated with this project?"

The Tameer official said the project was held up due to "contractor-related delays" and "other events, which were beyond Tameer's control".

The official said the project was hampered by "suspension of certain activities in whole or in part due to changes in approval process", but he refused to elaborate.

"This is the available information for now," the official said.

Some workers for Al Rajhi Projects who were laid off this year said they had still not received their end-of-service benefits and other owed payments.

One skilled worker said he and about 50 other employees who were let go in July have not seen any of the money owed.

A former manager at Al Rajhi said he had received about Dh100,000 in owed benefits last week and claimed about 20 per cent of the laid-off workers had been paid.

"I don't think they won't pay, eventually," the former manager said. "It's just a matter of time. And it may be a long time."

Ismail Ali Rababah, an adviser at the law firm Baitul Hikmah in Abu Dhabi, said he expected a ruling in an investor case from the Federal Supreme Court within a month.

Two other cases are pending in the Court of Appeals after Tameer contested the lower court's ruling.

jthomas@thenational.ae