Abu Dhabi pacing development evenly

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By Robin Teh , Special to Gulf News

The future is more than bricks-and-mortar. In recent years Dubai received world recognition for many of its achievements. Before the fallout of 2008, Dubai was one of the fastest growing urban areas in the world.

Soon, Dubai is likely to have some competition from its neighbour, Abu Dhabi. The watchword now is Abu Dhabi, which has developed at a steadier, more manageable pace in the light of the current economic climate.

There is a master plan for the whole of Abu Dhabi developed by the Urban Planning Council in 2007. Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 is the cornerstone to the development for the short- to long-term future of the city.

Abu Dhabi has a key role to play in the global marketplace as a city synonymous with the best aspects of business. For Abu Dhabi to compete and set its mark as a regional hub, it needs to attract businesses and residents alike.

Residents need to feel comfortable and have plenty of activities “on their doorstep”. At present this is not the case.

In recent years several of the building blocks have come on-stream, symbolised by the development of Reem Island, Saadiyat and Yas Island for business, residential and leisure purposes. Abu Dhabi has focused on getting the maximum out of its outlying islands.

This has cost far less as it is not reclaimed land and offers more scope to a city where space was originally restricted to the main island. Abu Dhabi is in line to offer a variety of retail, leisure and recreational activity than most other cities in the GCC.

On the face of it, Abu Dhabi has taken all the best ideas and projects and integrated them into the city’s growth plans. The difference is these are all on a manageable and realistic scale.

Large number

These projects are either complete or nearing completion and are likely to attract a large numbers of visitors in the coming years. For example, the Yas Marina Circuit with the Formula One and other international events will give the ultimate experience for the racers and spectators alike.

Adjacent to it is the Ferrari World which will host the fastest rollercoaster in the world as well as rides for those who are less adventurous.

There are now three major golf courses open in Abu Dhabi, all conforming to PGA standards and offering something different. These are the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, currently on the PGA European Tour, the Saadiyat Golf Course, and Yas Links, which is the first links golf course outside of the UK. The number of golf courses is expected to increase further.

Major destination

Another establishment set for launch is the Al Forsan Club adjacent to Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which will offer equestrian, go-karting (on- and off-road), shooting, watersports (including wakeboarding), and paintballing. This will definitely bolster the appeal of the city.

If you take a step back and look at the plans of Abu Dhabi up to 2030, the city should be able to say it can rival any major destination at many levels. If we assume the current projects were completed today, the city would be able to match any visitor’s appetite from any part of the world.

In real estate terms, recent months have seen a fall in rents in Abu Dhabi as more supply is introduced. This situation would continue until price stability is achieved, which is estimated to occur by mid-2011.

Prices are falling, but to a realistic level and away from the exorbitant market place of the period from 2007 to 2009. While rents are the key driver attracting residents to Abu Dhabi, most do seek a lifestyle package.

And with better schools, hospitals, recreation and shopping being developed and declining rent levels, Abu Dhabi will soon be the place to be.

The writer is Director, Valuations & Research, Chesterton International.

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