Sorting out the 'quality' issue
Marzooq Rashid Al Rashdan from Abyaar talks about the issues of 'quality' and 'luxury' in the local market.
Marzooq Rashid Al Rashdan, managing director, Abyaar, tells Christopher Sell why Kuwaiti developers are setting up shop in Dubai and looking to maximise the quality of high-end projects in the region.
You are a Kuwaiti company based in Dubai. How much work do you have in Kuwait?
We have nothing in Kuwait.
Are there any plans to change that in the future?
I don't know to be honest. We established Abyaar to develop and grow from Dubai. We are a new company, having established at the end of 2005, but we have nothing in Kuwait.
But, politically, it is a lot more stable now. Are you looking to exploit this?
It is more stable. But in the real estate market there are no opportunities in Kuwait. For that reason, you find many Kuwaiti real estate companies in Dubai, such as Mazaya.
What needs to change for you to look at Kuwait?
I don't think it is easy in Kuwait. We are focusing on Dubai, and we are seeking opportunities in other Middle Eastern countries.
Kuwait is expensive - even for real estate companies to buy land it costs more than Dubai. It is difficult to find land to buy and develop a project and demand is not high, so why would you?
What is Acacia Avenues?
We launched Acacia Avenues in December 2006. It is a very unique project as it is the first freehold project in Jumeirah. There are 50 villas, plus seven plots for private developers.
We have already sold five and we broke the record for price-per-square-foot in the Dubai market - at almost US $544 (AED2,000). In my opinion this is cheap, because they are of a high standard and in a good location. And it is difficult to find plots of this size in Jumeirah.
What aspect of this development are you placing greatest emphasis on?
It is the location that is the most important aspect of any real estate project. But together with this location, we are developing high-end properties with an established brand and a famous interior designer, which is Machio Montziati for the villas. And we will soon announce the interior designer for the two towers, who is more famous than Armani for interior design.
The presence of a partnership seems particularly important. Is this the way real estate is going?
Yes, it is very important for us. We deal with real estate like a fashion business. And this one is a trend. It is like No.1 Hyde Park in London - one of the most expensive projects in the world, managed by Mandarin Oriental.
For each project, we will employ the most important and famous interior designers and brands for the details. We don't want to mention luxury, as we don't need to. We have a prime location, quality and brands that will assure this. I think in Dubai, there are very few luxury high-end projects - luxury is just a word.
What are you planning following this? Are you rolling the concept-out across the region?
Yes, we are researching opportunities outside of Dubai; a concept similar to Acacia Avenues. We are looking at Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Oman.
The quality of buildings in Dubai are reputably not the best. How are you trying to offset this?
No, the quality of buildings are fine. It is in the freehold sector where there is no quality. The problem is in the finishing. But on buildings that are not for sale, you will find the owner investing in quality.