Site visit: Alef Residences, Palm Jumeirah Dubai

After stalling in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Alef Residences on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah is undergoing somewhat of a revival.

Overall, construction is 34% complete at the development.
Overall, construction is 34% complete at the development.

In 2008, when the global financial crisis hit Dubai, scores of high-profile real estate projects stalled due to funding challenges. But amidst fresh investments and steady improvements in its property market, the Emirate is undergoing somewhat of a resurgence with many delayed developments coming back online.

Alef Residences, situated on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, is one such project. The plot for the development was initially purchased over a decade ago in 2005.

Mahmoud Amer, executive director of developer Al Sharq Investment, tells Construction Week: “The policy that the owners follow with residential developments in Dubai is a little bit different. Al Sharq Group has developed a couple of other plots in Dubai, none of which were financed through off-plan sales. The same strategy was to be applied with this project as well.

“This meant that a solid funding package had to be put in place before construction began. By the time the package was being finalised, the crisis happened, and the project was stalled,” he explains.

The development was relaunched in early 2011 when the market once again started to show signs of improvement. The project’s design was completely reconfigured, with the number of residential units taken down to 104 from the initially planned 200.

Construction work at the site commenced early last year, and completion is expected in the second quarter of 2017. Amer points out: “We are now 34% complete. Our focus is to create a product that will withstand the volatility of the market.”

The $544m (AED2bn) Alef Residences occupies 46,916 sqm of a 92,903-sqm plot on Palm Jumeirah’s west crescent. In addition, the site will house a new W hotel, also owned by Al Sharq Investment. It will be located adjacent to the Kempinski Hotel & Residences.

The 104 homes, all with unique floor plans, are located across eight mansions. They feature their own dedicated lobbies and private elevators, which will be shared by only two apartments on each floor.

A selection of two-, three-, four-, and five-bedroom luxury homes offer spaces ranging from 446 sqm to 1,393 sqm, with floor-to-ceiling skyline views, large balconies, and gardens. Some will even have their own pools. The pinnacle is reserved for two “ultra-luxurious” simplex and three duplex penthouses.

Prices for the apartments range from $3.5m (AED13m) to a whopping $13.6m (AED50m). The residences are surrounded by a tropical, landscaped garden and a 475m-long white sandy beach – the largest private residential beachfront location in Dubai.

The site also features Club 104, an exclusive members’ club for residents and guests with a restaurant, gym, lounges, a spa, meeting rooms, a kids’ club, and a cinema.

Amer asserts: “The project features enviable views of the Arabian Gulf. Inspired by the wadis and bastakiya, the development will represent the first project under the Alef brand.”

It will also include W Dubai – The Palm, a 364-key luxury hotel operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The hotel will house six gourmet food and beverage (F&B) outlets, including three speciality restaurants, a poolside restaurant and bar, a shisha lounge, and a lobby lounge.

Residents will have VIP access to its 24/7 concierge service and amenities, including dining destinations and a rooftop nightclub with 360° skyline views.

“Currently, there are 2,800 construction workers present at the site. We plan to ramp up the numbers as and when the interior fit-outs begin,” says Amer.

The main contractor for the project is Al Futtaim Carillion, and the homes have been designed by RMJM Architects. Drake & Scull is responsible for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) activities, Depa is handling interior fit-outs, and Terra Varde is conducting landscaping works.

Reem Emirates Aluminium and Technical Glass & Aluminium are supplying facades for W Dubai and the residences, respectively. Emirates Watertec is responsible for pools and water features, Hyder is the main consultant, and Mace is the project manager.

Amer adds: “We are on track with the construction of the project. If you drive by the site now, you will notice we are up to the fifth floor in parts of the development.”

Although recent progress at the site is no doubt encouraging for Amer and his team, the prices of Dubai’s top-end real estate developments are in decline. According to real estate consultancy Asteco, prices at the luxury end of the market have fallen by an average of 10%. Last year, apartments in Dubai Marina dropped in value by as much as 17%, whilst Palm Jumeirah units fell by up to 13%.

“But that doesn’t affect our sales,” Amer emphasises. “We are building a home where residents will want to live. It will be an address; a community created by us to which people want to belong.

“The Alef brand is truly the first of its kind – through design, space, location, and genuine lifestyle experiences. It will be our first, but definitely not our last,” he concludes.

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