The UAE has often been touted as a concrete jungle, and not without good reason. The impressive towers glittering along the local skyline make it hard to remember the country’s history of Bedouin tents and wind towers. It is, perhaps, to counter this seemingly rapid disintegration of greenery that the Government of Ajman joined hands with Lebanese developer, Solidere International, to develop the Al Zorah project in the UAE’s Northern Emirate.
Located along the Arabian Sea, Al Zorah Development Company’s flagship project spans 540ha, of which 12km is seafront, and is bordered by 100ha of natural mangroves.
The project was launched in 2008, but hit a roadblock with the financial crisis of 2009. Development gathered pace following the 2012 upturn in the UAE’s property market, and the company reintroduced Al Zorah at Cityscape Dubai 2014.
The massive project comprises five key districts: The Gateway; Beachfront; Peninsula; Creekside; and Golf Course. The Gateway stands at the project’s entrance around Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road, and features retail facilities and high-rise towers.
Beachfront includes high-end resorts, a beach club, a boardwalk, and beachfront residential serviced apartments.
Peninsula, interconnected by a network of pedestrian passages, features an entertainment complex, a marina, Al Zorah souks, and a lifestyle centre.
Creekside is a residential and hotel quarter with direct access to the waterfront promenade, four marinas, and a mangrove exploration trail.
Imad Dana, chief executive officer of Al Zorah Development Company, tells Construction Week: “As a freehold project, Al Zorah will offer ultimate value to its residents and investors, including 100% ownership of land and the villas.”
Construction is nearing completion on the first phase of the development, which is worth $544m (AED2bn).
“We have completed almost two-thirds of the first phase of the project,” Dana says.
Work to be carried out in phase one involves the construction of two beachfront hotels and resorts, an 18-hole golf course by Nicklaus Design, a clubhouse, 42 golf villas, serviced residential apartments, and four marinas.
A contract worth $31.1m (AED115m) has been awarded to Aims Group for road development in the first phase. Under its terms, the contractor will develop all road and utility works for the project. Completion of this section is due by the fourth quarter of 2015.
Phase one infrastructure works also include the design and earthworks for four marinas that can accommodate more than 200 boats, the golf course, a road to link Al Zorah with Sheikh Mohammmed bin Zayed Road, and water edge protection across 3.5km of the waterfront.
“We are in the process of putting out tenders for landscaping,” Dana says.
“We have built a mock-up and tested the vegetation, which has given us an idea of what to plant or not.”
Construction of the 42 golf villas is currently underway, and could be completed by mid-2016. Prestige Constructions is the main contractor for these villas, prices of which range from $1m (AED4m) to $1.7m (AED6.5m).
Dana remarks: “Our buyers love it [the villa offering] because it has a view of the golf course. It is a first-row development, with nice design and adequate open spaces.”
The golf course, spread across half-a-million sqm and overlooking the golf villas, is expected to be complete by the end of 2015. The par-72, 18-hole championship golf course, by Nicklaus Design, will be managed and operated by Switzerland-based Troon Golf.
“The golf course will be completed in a month’s time and ready [for] play,” Dana says.
“We intend to host the official opening in the end of November or beginning of December.”
The project will include six resorts and boutique hotels, of which two are currently being developed as part of the first phase. The first is the Oberoi Al Zorah, which will feature 113 guestroom suites, a wellness spa, restaurants, and swimming pools. The second is the Lux Al Zorah, featuring 193 rooms, suites, and villas with 260m of beachfront.
“Both of the resorts are completely owned by us and are expected to be completed by 2016. Our contractor for the resort is Six Construct,” Dana says.
Residents and visitors will also have access to pedestrian walks, small parks, as well as tracks for jogging, cycling, and buggies. Also included in the first phase is the boardwalk, which will be a pedestrian spine accommodating a mixture of retail outlets, restaurants, and nightclubs.
“We have seen a good mix of buyers from around the world,” Dana says. “[The property] being freehold, they are very happy with the location.”
Dana believes budget-conscious investors looking to escape the humdrum of a busy and expensive residential market in Dubai will find Al Zorah one of the better housing options available in the UAE’s Northern Emirates.
His confidence is buoyed by his belief that investor confidence is again resurrecting in the country. “We are doing well, even if we have competition from other master developers. We have paid adequate attention to our project designs in order to make it a lifestyle destination,” Dana concludes.