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Site visit: The Wave, Muscat

Those behind The Wave, Muscat talk to Gavin Gibbon about the steps they’ve been taking to transform the $2.5bn waterfront mega project

Once completed, the waterfront development will boast a residential capacity of 4,000.
Once completed, the waterfront development will boast a residential capacity of 4,000.

Spread over 6km of coastline, The Wave, Muscat will be home to 4,000 people once completed.

It has apartments, townhouses, and villas; world-class leisure facilities; educational institutes; a retail and commercial gateway; and a stunning marina, soon to be complemented by internationally branded five-star hotels.

The flagship multicultural waterfront community, which is due to be completed in 2022, is many things, but one thing that it is not, according to its CEO, Hawazen Esber, is ‘iconic’.

He told Construction Week: “All eyes are on Oman now, and as an upcoming destination, it is creating its own unique market across all progressive sectors. In line with our scheduled completion date of 2022, the government has allocated $112bn (OMR43.11bn) to construction-based infrastructural projects across the country over the next seven years, which will continue to be a catalyst for growth throughout the economy and in particular the tourism industry.

As the country’s progress matures, The Wave, Muscat will maintain its position as an ambassador of Oman, featuring the best that the Sultanate has to offer by way of leading hotel establishments and world-class facilities.

“For us, The Wave, Muscat is about delivering a sophisticated representation of Oman, whether it is through our properties, public spaces, or amenities, while still maintaining the country’s identity, culture, and heritage – a place where people feel like they belong, where they say: ‘I’m at The Wave, Muscat, I’m in Oman, I’m home’,” added Esber.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from the new $2bn (OMR770m) international airport, The Wave, Muscat is the first Integrated Tourism Complex (ITC) in Oman to welcome freehold foreign investment. Founded in 2006, it is a $2.5bn (OMR962m) investment conceived through a public-private venture between the Omani government and UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Properties. Almost half of the project has been completed to date.

“We have big plans here, and will be introducing new levels of luxury property and amenity to the current masterplan over [2015] – many of which have never been seen in Oman before,” said Esber.

David Cummings, vice president of residential development, explained: “We have really exceeded our expectations in terms of construction; I am looking at delivering about six apartments a week and something in the region of four to six villas a week, every week, week in week out.”

He added, “If you can keep a constant amount of labour, rather than spiking it up and down, you can address quality and manage the whole programme a lot more [efficiently]. To do that, we require a leading edge where we have six lots of foundations going on, six lots of roofs going up, with six trowels plastering away.”

Cummings, who has over 30 years of experience as a house builder in the UK market, approached the development as a house building project, without the need for project managers. He has certainly placed his stamp on it, ensuring a continual process of development.

He said: “It is a system I brought with me from the UK, which evolved from a framework used in the United States, called ‘job ready, job complete’. It is all about making sure that work is completed by one team at a time so that the next trade workers coming in do not have to undo work or have their work undone.

It is just a more efficient way of doing things. It is fixed in with our customer payments, so we have customers’ payments, quality control processes, and out payments to contractors all linked together. It is really a transparent way of keeping track of what is going on. In the UK, it is sometimes called ‘house equivalent’.”

Currently there are over 3,000 people from more than 60 nationalities living at The Wave, Muscat. Total sales amount to just over 1,700 properties, with more than 1,400 now handed over.

The construction of Marsa 1, the first waterfront apartments released in Oman, started in Q2 2013. Cummings revealed the non-waterfront phases were completed in 2014, following a construction period of approximately 18-20 months.

These are accompanied by Marsa 2 and 3, which are all at various stages of development and were more than 80%
pre-sold before construction commenced. The first stage of foundation works for Marsa 2 were laid last year, and are due to be finished by the end of 2015.

The Reehan Residences villas, which include the market’s first ever ‘Courtyard Homes’, were launched in June 2014, and have achieved 100% in sales. More recently, The Wave, Muscat awarded a $42.1m (OMR16.2m) contract to Al Turki Enterprises, for the construction of 99 villas, which will include a central community swimming pool and recreation area exclusive for Reehan residents.

Esber explained: “We have also recently released a new marina-front apartment precinct called ‘Marsa Gardens’. Located in close proximity to Almouj Marina and the forthcoming Kempinski The Wave Hotel, the precinct will offer a variety of floor-plan designs that range from 80 – 191m2.

Thirty of the apartments are positioned overlooking the marina, with a further 202 situated with views of landscaped recreational space belonging to the surrounding gardens and village. The release is in response to the current market demand for apartments, specifically investors and owner occupiers wanting to secure a property in the vibrant, integrated living space.”

The development also recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bank Muscat to develop a mixed portfolio of real estate assets for a new property fund, involving investments of up to $204m (OMR78.6m). In the first tranche of a number of transactions planned at The Wave, Muscat, and the largest off-plan real estate purchase in Oman over the last 12 months, Bank Muscat agreed to purchase 230 residential apartments in four blocks, to be known as ‘Marsa Parklands’, for $81.68m (OMR31.44m).

It all makes for several communities throughout the entire development. And these are communities are proving to be popular with Omani residents.

Esber said, “The most exciting thing about this is that we have a big proportion of Omanis who are living at The Wave, Muscat. We are very proud that we have been able to attract Omanis to join our community. Actually, the number is increasing and that makes it very sustainable compared to other projects throughout the world, where these types of freehold project are more of an enclave for expatriates.”

In addition to villas and apartments, The Wave, Muscat will be home to a five-star Kempinski, which is currently under construction by Carillion Alawi, and is due to open in early 2016.

The four-star, 190-key The Wave Plaza Hotel, meanwhile, worth $64.9m (OMR25m), will be built by local investment group Tameer Investment, and later operated by Shaza Hotels. It is expected to be complete within 24 months from the start of construction.

While the initial masterplan, drawn up by OBM, allowed for four hotels at the sprawling development, Esber revealed that an additional hotel was part of a series of changes announced in early 2015.

He ellaborated: “I think we will have at least five [hotels], but the idea is to accelerate construction, because even the original four were on the back burner.

“What we want is to announce at least one more hotel and the serviced apartments, in addition to a large variety of F&B venues [in 2015].

“The changes have been huge. We have completely revamped our masterplan. Originally conceived in 2006/07, [it] has been subject to market demands and the maturity of the country’s infrastructure. Consequently, we have also matured, become more confident, and have been able to evolve with the market. We know that we can try new products and make them a success.”

At the other end of The Wave, Muscat lies Almouj Golf, the only 18-hole PGA standard links golf course in Oman. Designed by legendary Australian golfer Greg Norman, it runs alongside 2km of beachfront, stretching a total of 7,342 yards, and is rated as the fourth best course in the entire Middle East.

The retail element of the project, meanwhile, represents another key piece of the jigsaw. The Walk, for example, located close to the 400-berth Almouj Marina, is characterised by four storeys of retail and commercial options, not to mention business facilities – more than 10,850m2 of bustling activity.

“We recently launched The Walk and people are already very excited about this, but it only comprises about 10% of what is coming,” concluded Esber.

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