Construction update: Arada's $354m Nasma Residences, Sharjah

Demonstrating its confidence in the Sharjah property market, Arada chose the emirate as the site of its inaugural project, Nasma Residences, which is due to be completed in 2019

Site Visits, ARADA, Construction, Middle East construction, Nasma Residences, Property development, Sharjah, Sharjah property, Site visit

When Construction Week interviewed the group chief executive officer of KBW Investments, Ahmed AlKhoshaibi, in April 2017, not even two months had passed since Nasma Residences was launched.

At the time, however, the project’s road infrastructure had already been completed, and all 107 units comprising Phase 1 of the five-phase development had been sold.

The latter was achieved in less than a month, making Nasma one of the fastest-selling residential projects in Sharjah, and establishing Arada – a partnership enterprise jointly formed in January 2017 by Saudi Arabia’s KBW Investments and the UAE’s Basma Group – as a significant new presence in the UAE property market.

“Arada may be a start-up, but it’s a strong start-up,” AlKhoshaibi said during the interview. “Name another start-up that sold out its first phase – or any phase, for that matter – in a month.”

Having hit the ground running on its inaugural project, Arada is keeping the development of Nasma Residences moving at a rapid pace in order to meet its Q4 2019 completion date target. Enabling works commenced in September 2017, with the main contract for Phase 1 awarded to Intermass Engineering & Contracting. The contractor began construction of the project’s first phase in January this year.

In February, Intermass was awarded one of the two contracts for Phase 2. The second was awarded to Klampfer Middle East, a Sharjah-headquartered company founded by KBW Investments and Basma Group. Construction of Phase 2 started in March.

Arada is currently in the tendering process for the Phase 3 main contract, which it plans to award in July. It is also expecting Arcadia Middle East – the designer of the project’s residential units and another KBW Investments-Basma Group joint venture – to complete the design of Phases 4 and 5 by the end of this month. All three phases are due to start construction this year. Khatib & Alami, meanwhile, has completed all infrastructure design.

Arada says it is in the process of choosing a contractor and consultant for the utilities-related infrastructure at Nasma Residences, which will include sewage and electricity facilities, as well as updates to the road network.

Giving Construction Week a tour of the project site, Mohammad Moussalli, director of development at Arada, says that 490 units of the approximately 800 villas and townhouses comprising the master-planned community have been purchased: “We plan to sell [all the units] within this year.”

He goes on to note that progress on Phase 1 has crossed the 25% mark, with structural works done for 20% of the units, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) and finishing activities now being implemented. Phase 2, meanwhile, is 5% complete. Construction activities on Nasma are expected to peak in Q1 and Q2 2019, taking the number of workers on site from the current 300 to 1,000-1,500.

Occupying 46.5ha of land in Sharjah’s Al Tay area, Nasma Residences is located on Emirates Road and is close to the new Sharjah Convention Centre – a detail that is said to differentiate the project from other residential developments in the emirate.

“What sets this project apart from everything in Sharjah are three things, one [of which] is location,” explains Moussalli. “[It’s] away from the traffic and is accessible to everyone in the northern emirates. It offers ease of access to Dubai, and is almost halfway to Abu Dhabi.”

The project’s amenities are also a selling point, he adds, saying that Arada’s goal is to provide residents with a sense of community and ensure that they have everything they need within the development. These amenities include a community centre, a mosque, a GEMS school, and a 6,600m2 shopping mall called Nasma Square.

The community centre, also designed by Arcadia Middle East, will feature a medical centre, a pharmacy, a nursery, a club house, and an anchor store, as well as restaurants and cafés. Moreover, green spaces like public parks will account for 40% of the development.

Moussalli continues: “You’ll have everything you need [in close proximity]. You will even be able to go on foot to the mosque, the school, the community centre, and the huge parks we are providing. We are providing all that at a price that is [affordable] for residents and locals.”

The price of a two-bedroom townhouse at Nasma starts from $272,257 (AED1m), according to Arada, revealing that the majority of its buyers so far has been Emiratis, followed by other Arab nationals and South Asians.

Offering his perspective on what makes Arada’s debut project different, Elie Mrad, head of architectural division at Arcadia Middle East, tells Construction Week that Nasma Residences has been designed with Sharjah’s culture in mind.

He elaborates: “It’s a challenge to design in Sharjah, because it has a strong culture. We have to understand that culture, so we did a lot of research and listened to the salespeople – to the way they sell and the feedback [they received] from the customers – and then implemented [what we learned] in our design.”

One cultural element that Arcadia factors into its work for Nasma is the issue of privacy, says Mrad, revealing that the firm addresses it by coming up with designs that will allow residents to welcome guests into their living room while still keeping areas like the kitchen private, or let them exit the house without passing by the living room.

He clarifies, however, that Nasma units come in a variety of layouts, in consideration of buyers coming from different cultural backgrounds. “We have some [that feature] open kitchens. I call it a multi-cultural design solution.”

Sustainability has also been a major consideration in the project’s development, with Arada and the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) working closely to make sure that Nasma as a community will be energy-efficient.

“The main concern now for most people is the efficiency of the air conditioning [equipment] and the water and power usage, so everything we will put into our [units] will help reduce water and power consumption,” says Moussalli. He notes that for cooling, the developer is still deliberating over two options: standard direct expansion (DX) and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems.

“We will see which is more feasible for us and for the end users, because when it comes to efficiency and power load, there’s not much difference between the two at this stage,” he explains. “People think that VRF [technology] offers more power savings, but in the end, it will depend on the design. You can [install] VRF systems, but they might not work efficiently in your [property], so you might as well use DX.”

Arcadia, for its part, tries to introduce as much natural lighting and ventilation into the design of the project’s residential units, in addition to being careful with their orientation, says Mrad: “Most [of the units] face north to [avoid] the intense heat of the sun. With units facing south, we try […] to orient all windows and openings to the north.”

Moreover, to “sustain and maintain” the spaces between villas and maximise their use, the consultancy is turning them into cul-de-sacs that residents can use either as a car park or as a playground for children.

“We are also exploring the potential of using electric cars, especially near the community centre,” he says. “And we comply with the green building code of Dubai, because we want our buildings to address [the needs] of all end users and not just those from Sharjah.”

This emphasis on diversity when it comes to the buyers of Nasma Residences is not surprising and, indeed, reflects the growth of the property market in Sharjah, an emirate that HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, chairman of both Arada and Basma Group, has described as a “secure and sought-after destination”, one that is indeed attracting an increasing number of investors and real estate developers.

Arada, says Moussalli, has had a hand in the growth of the Sharjah market: “When we launched Nasma, we expected the project to succeed. But to be one of the fastest-selling projects in Sharjah? That’s [another] thing.

“We are also working closely with the authorities, because change begins with not only the buyers but also the authorities [that are behind] the regulations and legislation. Of course, the direction comes from the ruler. If [HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah] hadn’t taken the decision to expand [the market] and bring in investors to Sharjah, none of this would have happened.”

Developers weren’t always as open to the idea of building in Sharjah as they are at the moment, recalls Moussalli: “[Many] of the large developers in Dubai weren’t brave enough to come and take that step, but we were. We [saw] that Sharjah was a place that can grow, and [we were] willing to take the challenge.”

Having decided to take the challenge, as Moussalli phrased it, Arada proceeded to engage with government bodies like SEWA and Sharjah Municipality. This collaboration has yielded positive results, with Nasma Residences getting the required support from the agencies concerned, and Arada, in turn, contributing to the Sharjah community.

“I believe change has already come to Sharjah,” says Moussalli. “Everyone is now rushing [into the emirate] to develop new areas and bring in new ideas.”

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