Sowwah Square on target for year end launch

Handover at Abu Dhabi's financial district expected to begin this year

An artist's impression of the finished Sowwah Island. Photo: Getty.
An artist's impression of the finished Sowwah Island. Photo: Getty.

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Sowwah Square, the heart of Abu Dhabi’s planned business district, Sowwah Island, will release its remaining two office towers to lease by the end of the year, the developer behind the project has said.

The planned financial hub, billed as the emirate’s answer to London’s Canary Wharf, will have four office towers with 183,000m2 of leasable space, overlooking prime retail space and the newly-built Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

Around 40% of the development has already been leased, said the executive director of developer Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, Peter Wilding.

“Tower one [Al Sila] and tower four [Al Khatem] have had great success in the pre-lease market. These two towers are substantially leased. Overall, we’ve leased around 40% of the entire development,” he told Arabian Business.

Tenants include British law firms Clifford Chance and Norton Rose Group, alongside financial firms JP Morgan, Gulf Capital, and Dunia Finance.

“At the launch of Sowwah, which is planned for the end of the year, we will release towers two [Al Sarab] and three [Al Maqam] onto the leasing market,” Wilding said.

The launch date for development, located off the coast of Abu Dhabi island, was initially scheduled for the close of 2010, but was pushed back by a year due to construction delays.

Sowwah Square’s 33,000m2 retail centre is now expected to complete within two years, while the Rosewood Hotel is slated to launch next August, Wilding said.

“The new CBD [central business district] is coming to life and taking shape,” he said. “For the Rosewood, we’ll have substantial completion for the construction by April next year and we have the opening of the hotel in August.”

The construction contract for the project’s Four Seasons hotel – the first in the UAE – is currently out to tender and is expected to be awarded in the next few months.

A Jones Lang LaSalle report this week said office rents across the Gulf were likely to slide in the third quarter as foreign companies showed more caution in the wake of the Arab Spring unrest.

The consultancy warned that office rents in Abu Dhabi would also see downward pressure as a surge of commercial properties come online, though market speculation has also suggested the emirate may benefit from the fallout of foreign firms fleeing Bahrain.

But Wilding said the project did not see itself as rivalling established financial hubs such as Dubai’s tax-free business park DIFC or Bahrain’s Financial Harbour.

“This is not in direct competition with DIFC or Bahrain. I think we’re complementing what they are doing by creating a place within Abu Dhabi, a true central business district,” he said.

“What we are saying is that we are creating a new world-class place of business equal to what London did many years ago with the establishment of Canary Wharf.”

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