Inside Dubai’s Russian-built XXII Carat villas on Palm Jumeirah
Russian developer Forum Group says its massive seven-bedroom villas will redefine 'luxury' in a 'soft' property market
Marking the first project beyond its Russian base, Forum Group’s XXII Carat luxury residential development on Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah claims to cater to more than the average buyer or investor.
Located next to the One & Only resort near the end of Palm Jumeirah’s West Crescent, this gated community, offering beachfront living, will be home to 22 seven-bedroom villas on a 4.6ha plot.
The initial plan was to fit out everything, but once we started talking to clients, we understood that we could never match or fit exactly with what they wanted.
Individual plots range from 1,448m2 to just short of 2,415m2, with all villas including amenities such as private pools and landscaped gardens. Prices for the villas – named Ruby, Emerald, and Sapphire – begin at $10.3m (AED37.8m) and go up to $25m (AED91.8m).
“In around 2012-13, we started driving around Palm Jumeirah, looking at what else was going on and what other people were building,” Forum Group’s managing director, Anton Yachmenev, tells Construction Week during a tour of the site.
“We discovered that – given the location of this plot – by the time you come here, you would have probably passed [numerous] hotel apartment buildings [with units] for sale. We would have had to compete with all of that at the time. Villas also seemed then – and still do – to be smaller-scale project versus, let’s say, a 46,451m2 [project], which of course requires more funding for construction and so on.”
The developer purchased the extensive plot in 2008, but it was not the right time to start construction on the development due to the financial crisis at that time. However, once the market recovered, Yachmenev says Forum Group decided to cater to a different “niche” and to build a “limited number of stand-alone, high-spec villas on the Palm on relatively large plots”.
We are removing 3,500m3 of sand from the beach and bringing in new sand, so that it is a higher quality of sand on the beach. This is a huge operation.
The centrepiece of the private community will be a 10-unit hotel apartment building, including two penthouses. Yachmenev says all the development’s household, maintenance, garage, and parking facilities will be provided through a 24/7 concierge service at the hotel reception.
“We were targeting 1,486-1,579m2 plot sizes as a minimum,” he adds. “We received building permits in 2014; and in 2015, we hit the ground properly. Before that, we did do some preparatory works such as compaction and building retaining walls around the plot, but construction started in September 2015.”
Since then, Yachmenev explains, the developer has had to “change a few things here and there”, which has led to a slight delay in completion. “[In early November 2018], we were valued by Rera [the Real Estate Regulatory Agency] at more than 90% completion. All 22 houses are completed – some are fitted and others are shell and core. The initial plan was to fit out everything, but once we started talking to clients, we understood that we could never match or fit exactly with what they wanted. This calibre of clients all have their own style. Outside, we are not allowing them to touch, but inside it is whatever they want to do.”
He adds: “We took our approach [to design] from our past experiences. You do not find overly huge rooms in the villas, but there are seven of them, all of which are ensuite. It is a very carefully thought-out floor plan, probably without too much space. But all the space that is there, will be used.”
Supervision and coordination are the biggest challenges for a project like this.
When the project was put out to tender, the main contract was awarded to Abu Dhabi-based contractor Teejan Contracting, which oversaw about 70-75% of the project’s total construction. The contractor and Forum Group went their separate ways due to what Yachmenev terms unspecified “different reasons”, with the latter appointing another contractor, which is now finishing out the works. International Consultant Engineers, however, has worked on the project since day one. “We have a very good relationship with them,” says Yachmenev.
The structure of the villas is “in-situ concrete”, but walls are “filled with hollow clay block, which we bought from Saudi Arabia”, he explains. Made from natural material, and “breathable”, the bricks are complemented by rockwool insulation, selected for its temperature control and soundproofing capabilities.
As Yachmenev states, while Forum Group’s initial plan was to fit out all the villas, it soon became apparent that the developer could never align its fit-out work with buyers’ high expectations, particularly given the high price-points of the villas. “We have two preferred fit-out companies, because nobody wants to fit out the villas themselves,” he continues. “They want to be involved at the design stage – selecting and approving the materials – but they do not want to go deep into getting it done. Execution is the most difficult part, to make sure the homes look like they do in the pictures. Customers ideally want a turnkey solution.”
Yachmenev adds that making sure everything comes in on time is a challenge. “Construction is a sequential industry. Supervision and coordination, in a nutshell, are the biggest challenges for a project like this.
"Procurement also presents a big challenge – sourcing marble, paints, planters, and so on. A lot of the higher calibre items used at XXII Carat are not available here – they have to be ordered internationally and they have to be delivered at the right time, to the right place, in the right quantity.”
Locally manufactured plaster was used on the development, along with locally produced concrete. Copper was transported from Fujairah, and roof tiles were flown in from Italy. Because of its promised high-spec finish, the luxury project has attracted interest from buyers and investors from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia – the markets that Yachmenev says the group is actively targeting.
On the subject of the group’s future plans in Dubai, Yachmenev says: “We do not have any more private beachfront land available – there are probably not any good plots left, certainly not on the Palm. [This type of plot] is either not available or it is encumbered by some third-party rights and you do not really want to touch it. So there is nothing on the Palm that we are looking at.
In around 2012-13, we started driving around the Palm, looking at what else was going on and what other people were building.
“We still have a few plots in the land bank, but currently the market is a little bit soft, so the focus is still on completing this project and setting up its service element. Not only are we building, but we are removing 3,500m3 of sand from the beach and bringing in new sand, so that it is a higher quality of sand on the beach. This is a huge operation.”