Site visit: Town Square, Dubai
With 18,000 apartments and 3,000 townhouses, Nshama’s Town Square development looks set to bring affordable living to the UAE on a grand scale
In February 2015, private developer Nshama unveiled ‘Town Square’, a 750 acre project set for Dubai’s Al Barsha district. The development is located in Dubailand and is currently being built near the new cycle track at Al Qudra, adjacent to Emirates Road and a short drive from Motor City.
The large-scale development will eventually have 3,000 three- and four-bedroom townhouses and 18,000 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as large retail, hospitality and commercial spaces. The project will be centred around shopping and dining districts, plazas, greenbelts, mosques, educational institutions, healthcare centres, entertainment and outdoor sports facilities.
With a total land area of 2.8 million sqm, the entire project will have a high land-to-building ratio, opening up open spaces for a green community.
A central park will form a key component of the project as part of a focus on promoting an active outdoor lifestyle, as well as arts and culture.
UAE-based contractor Beaver Gulf is presently working on the first set of townhouses – Zahra and Hayat – which, according to the developer, are well underway to being handed over in 2017. Fred Durie, CEO of Nshama, mentioned during a media preview at the project site, that significant progress has been made on the ground.
“The contractor has already started work on the townhouses and is three months ahead of schedule. It is going well on all fronts,” he said.
The Zahra community comprises 320 townhouses, out of which 176 are four-bedroom and 144 three-bedroom, with prices starting from $272,217 (AED999,888). The Hayat community features 730 townhouses – 170 four-bedroom and 560 three-bedroom units – all within the same price range as Zahra.
In addition to it, UAE-based contractor United Engineering Construction (UNEC) is working on the first two apartment blocks, Zahra and Safi, which will be handed over by the end of 2017.
Durie boasts that they are four months ahead of schedule: “With around 600 construction workers on site for the apartments, structural works are currently undergoing. With mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) works beginning in the next two to three months, the peak labour force will cross the 1,000 mark.”
The project will also add a boutique hotel and serviced residences complex, Vida Town Square, which will comprise 180 hotel rooms, overlooking the central park component. Other facilities in Town Square will include extensive walking and cycling trails, a Reel Cinemas cineplex, a connection to the Dubai Cycle Track on Al Qudra Road, a proposed Dubai Metro line, a metro station and the much talked-about Etihad Rail.
In order to provide an all-integrated community, Nshama is already in talks with two to three school operators and healthcare clinics. “The schools won’t be expensive. We will be announcing the first partnership very soon. We also have clinics and polyclinics earmarked around the central square in the first phase,” the CEO adds.
Durie hints that the developer also plans to have some retail offerings in place when residents move in by 2017.
One of the early set of contracts was awarded to Saudi-based contractor Saudi Binladin Group to carry out initial-stage works at the housing community. With around 180 days in hand to complete the job, the company conducted the first-phase deep services contract, which saw the complete excavation and backfilling for pipes needed for the area’s district cooling network across the Zahra and Hayat townhouses.
Durie remarks: “On the infrastructure side, deep services are finished and shallow services are around 50% completed already. It will finish in September this year.”
The earthworks contract for the entire project worth $5.9m (AED22m) was awarded to UAE-based contractor Al Naboodah, who has already commenced grading works at the site. Durie points out: “We are still in the mobilisation phase. It will take another two to three weeks, probably towards the end of April, for shoring works to start.”
District cooling pipes are being installed as part of the continuing infrastructure works for Emaar District Cooling (EDC), which will service the entire community. A 132kV substation is being built by Larsen & Toubro under a contract for DEWA.
Al Dharis SPF has been awarded a contract to design, build and supply a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) network, that will supply cooking gas to all of the apartments, townhouses, and more than 100 other buildings on site, including community retail and F&B units, and the Vida hotel. This will involve the construction of two, 50,000 litres-capacity underground tanks, over 35km of underground piping, and the supply of permanent operations and maintenance staff on site.
A contract for the site’s roads is expected to be tendered during the summer this year, and Durie hints that the construction will commence in the second quarter of 2016. Also a plan is being devised for the first third of the central square area to be brought forward either to the third or fourth quarter of 2016.
Dubai’s roller-coaster journey in real estate began since the opening of the freehold market to foreign investment in 2002. Ever since, builders have largely focussed on luxury and super-luxury properties, ignoring the Emirate’s silent majority — the middle-income groups, who have been battered by rent-related inflation.
From 2005-08, a large middle income group had left Dubai to live in Sharjah and Ajman – putting additional pressure on the Dubai-Sharjah highways and related infrastructure. During that period, Dubai had become unaffordable to many (mostly expatriates) – who either relocated to the Northern Emirates or sent families home.
To avoid this migration trend, the Dubai Government along with private real estate developers, have been undertaking initiatives to expand affordable housing for the Emirate’s middle-income groups. The efforts have arguably slowly began yielding results, as residents have started moving back to Dubai – Town Square by Nshama is one step in that direction to reclaim inhabitants.
Town Square aims to be completed within 10 years, during which multiple phases will be announced by the developer. At present there are around 1,050 townhouses and 1,100 apartments under construction, with another 600 apartments that are in the pipeline to be awarded.
Durie remarks: “Since it is our company’s first project, we want to make sure that it lives up to its name.
“We will continue to launch [residential units] in phases, and slowly and steadily it [Town Square] will evolve into one of the most sought-after destinations for residents in Dubai,” he concludes.
Selling like hot cakes
Nshama will launch another 200 apartments within Town Square in April 2016, according to the developer, since all the units that it has launched are sold out.
On the side lines of a media preview of the project, Fred Durie, CEO of Nshama, told Construction Week that the firm will launch another set of apartments in a week or two. “We are ready to start launching again. We make sure that before we launch, the design is complete, the contract tendered and ready to be awarded, and the prices fixed.”
He added: “We will be announcing around 200-300 apartments over two to three launches.” Durie also mentioned that more townhouses will be launched in Q3 or Q4 of 2016.