Sharjah is attempting to step out of the shadow of its larger neighbour, Dubai, with the development of a number of major signature projects that could significantly reshape its construction landscape. Many of these projects are mixed use, with master plans involving residential properties, commercial spaces, large-scale shopping malls and, in some cases, hotels and even an amusement park.
Several large-scale, mixed-use developments are under construction, pointing to a new trend for mixed-use property developments in the emirate, though still with a heavy emphasis on residential components. Chief among these projects is the Dh20bn (. (https://otbsd.com/) 4bn) Sharjah Waterfront City, located on Sharjah’s north-east coast and the largest master-planned, mixed-use development project in the emirate, as well as the third-largest in the GCC region. The project, being developed by Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development, covers over 60m sq feet across 10 islands, as well as 36 km of waterfront, and will be home to approximately 200,000 people. The first phase of the project, set to be completed in 2018 and budgeted at around Dh9.5bn ($2.6bn), will include a central business district, 24 mixed-use towers, a large shopping centre and a luxury hotel, among other tourism facilities. When finished, the development is set to comprise 200 residential and commercial towers, 95 apartment buildings, 1500 waterfront villas and a theme park.
Other mixed-use developments under way include Tilal City, a joint venture between Sharjah Asset Management and Eskan Real Estate Development, which will be Sharjah’s first freehold and free-lease master-planned project. Once completed the project will be home to around 65,000 people as well as the largest mall in Sharjah. Meanwhile, the Dh700m ($190.6m) Al Rayyan, being developed by Dharjah-based JMS Property Development and Management, is set to comprise two residential towers, a commercial tower and a retail complex. The project is also set to be among the first to offer leaseholds to non-GCC residents of the UAE.
According to those involved in Sharjah’s real estate sector, this emergence of mixed-use developments comes out of necessity, as property developers push out further from the centre and whole new communities are being established. “Mix use is still on a needs basis,” Suzanne Eveleigh, property management director of Cluttons, told OBG. “If you are going out into new areas you need to have services for the residents. It makes sense that you’d have somewhere you can have a supermarket or dry cleaners.” Eveleigh points to Tilal City as a prime example. “Tilal to me is a suburb, it’s a small city. There will be 65,000 people so they will benefit from having offices and retail areas. As it is not in the centre of the city you need to have everything there,” she added.
The arrival of major mixed-use projects could have a profound influence on Sharjah. The launch of big-ticket projects such as Tilal City and Sharjah Waterfront City will help open up multiple opportunities for investors and businesses, according to Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, chairman of Tilal Properties, speaking at the Cityscape Global 2015 exhibition in 2015. While this may be the case, many developers are likely to wait to see how these early mixed-use projects are received, and how easy the process is for those developing them. However, with such a strong demand for residential property, and a lot of focus in Sharjah on expanding other sectors of the economy, the opportunities could be significant. Sharjah is going to grow faster than the UAE on average, at around 6%, due to a lot of catch-up growth.
Developing mixed-use rather than purely residential projects will be highly beneficial for all involved, with strong value-added for residents, investors and also for Sharjah as a whole. Indeed, the arrival of large-scale mixed-use real estate developments could signal an important transition.