The development plans keep multiplying in Abu Dhabi, and the wealthiest of all emirates intends to invest Dh47bn ($12.8bn) in projects over the next two years. The city’s main real estate developers, Aldar Properties, Sorouh, Reem Developers and Al Qudra Holding, recently formed an alliance to establish a private stock company, Al Maabar, which will invest in the global property market.

In total, the United Arab Emirates capital plans to invest more than $175bn in tourism, energy and infrastructure by 2012. “There is an element of catch up,” says Steve Brice, regional head of research at Standard Chartered Bank. “Dubai started building two years before Abu Dhabi and the supply and demand imbalance is, if anything, greater than in Dubai. Thus we see prices rising strongly until perhaps early 2009, while Doha is set to peak in 2008.”

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The headline-grabbing Saadiyat Island project is due for completion by 2018 and involves two US companies, Parson International (consultants) and Gensler Associates. These companies organised the masterplan for the tourism-focused development. Among the project’s highlights are the $400m Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum for Contemporary Art, together with an arts centre. There is also a strong residential component with housing for more than 150,000 people.

Other major developments include the Al Reem Island complex, the Al Raha beach city, the $9.26bn Danet Abu Dhabi from Al Qudra Real Estate, and the Najmat Abu Dhabi from Reem Investments. The latter is an impressive $8bn residential and commercial project that looks to combine business, art and village districts.

US-based CRGA is designing Shams Abu Dhabi’s 8.5-hectare Central Park district. Project manager is US company Hill International with 3D/I+PI, which is made up of US-based 3D/I, Bahrain’s Projacs International and Al Qudra Holding.

Tameer Holding has struck a $27m deal with architectural firm Gensler to design its Tameer Towers project at Shams Abu Dhabi, which will comprise residential towers, an office tower, a hotel and serviced apartments, and restaurants and cafes.

The central business district is being developed and will consist of mixed-use towers up to 50 storeys in height alongside the retail and entertainment district.

Sorouh Real Estate recently awarded a $17.1m contract to Athena, a Greek contractor that specialises in marine-related construction projects. The project involves building a marina and two sea walls at Sorouh’s Shams Abu Dhabi development on Al Reem Island.

Population growth

With the population of Abu Dhabi predicted to double in the next 10 years, the ambitious projects are grounded in commercial reality, with anything between 225,000 and 250,000 new housing units likely to be required.

Development is being supported by Abu Dhabi’s new property law, which came into effect in 2005. In a bid to attract foreign investors, the legislation provided for 99-year land ownership and renewable 50-year surface ownership in specified areas to foreign nationals.

The real estate and tourism industries have been working closely together for many years. By 2009, more than 2000 new rooms catering for tourists will have become available. By focusing on innovative design and a host of new tourist attractions, Abu Dhabi looks set to remain an attractive tourist destination.

Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company is developing the $136.2m Emirates Pearl, a hotel and serviced apartment resort, which will include a 790-foot-high tower along the Khalidiya coast. The resort is centred on a 47-storey tower designed by Austria’s award-winning architect Dennis Lems. The tower will comprise 352 rooms and suites as well as luxury apartments.

Another Sorouh development is Lulu Island. A development containing hotels and resorts, a conference and exhibition centre as well as residential villas, it will be linked to Abu Dhabi by either a network of bridges or a tunnel.

Sorouh continues to work with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Investment and Development Company. The Dh1bn Golf Gardens at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2008. The gated community will comprise villas and town houses.

The eco-friendly Al Gurm Resort is another development with a large residential component with a mix of luxury villas.

Located on 5.9 million square feet of mangrove reserves, Aldar Properties has received a number of bids from Saudi Oger and Six Construct Abu Dhabi, while tenders for the hotel component are due shortly.

Commerce boom

The commercial sector is booming, with the first phase of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company’s new exhibition venue nearing completion and more than 20 companies entering into negotiations to establish their operations in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD) phase two. Two steel plants are also going up in ICAD: the Dh300m Al Ghurair Iron & Steel Company and second steel rolling mill from Abu Dhabi National Company for Building Materials.

A new port, which houses container terminals and is capable of coping with 33 million tonnes, is being developed and within five years the operations of the current Mina Zayed (Port Zayed) will shift to the new Khalifa Port. The adjacent industrial zone will support a variety of industries from base metals to logistics.

The Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company has handed over a contract worth $51m to Costain Abu Dhabi. The contract involves the replacement of 14 kilometres of underground pipe works on Das Island.

Another key project is the Dh1bn Cert City that is being set up by the Centre of Excellence, Research and Training, the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology, which is set to cover 1.5 million square feet and is being project managed by CRSS International.