Al Maryah Island drives investment in Abu Dhabi

Continued investment, particularly in retail and real estate, aims to drive footfall through a variety of new developments on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island.

“The long-term vision of Al Maryah Island is not simply to be a central business district bustling with activity during working hours, but to offer a healthy range of products in the development of a vibrant community,” Ali Eid Al Mheiri, executive director of Mubadala Real Estate and Infrastructure (MREI), Mubadala Development Company’s real estate investment arm, which is developing Al Maryah Island, told OBG.

Key staples

Part of a series of land reclamation projects, the 114-ha Al Maryah Island – located between Abu Dhabi’s historical city centre and Al Reem Island – includes both MREI-spearheaded developments and a number of projects led by third-party investors.

Commercial activity and leasing on the island is primarily driven by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) – the emirate’s financial free zone – which became fully operational in October 2015 after it began licensing financial companies.

ADGM is expected to help establish Abu Dhabi as a regional financial centre, with its own legal framework and regulatory structure, including three independent authorities: the Registration Authority, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority and ADGM Courts.

While ADGM currently focuses on private banking and wealth and asset management, increased clarity around legal processes, as well as a number of new agreements signed with global capital markets regulators, are expected to provide further incentives to companies looking to establish or move their operations to Al Maryah Island.

The health and hospitality segments have been a central focus for investors. As part of the island’s first phrase of development, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi ­– a partnership between US-based Cleveland Clinic and Mubadala – opened its 364-bed facility on Al Maryah Island in March last year.

More recently in May, the island saw the opening of the 200-room Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, the Canadian hotel operators’ first establishment in the emirate. It joins Rosewood Hotel Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2013, as the second high-end hospitality development on the island.

New projects

“The plan for the next five to eight years is the full development of the southern half of the island with all the plots sold and construction well under way,” Al Mheiri told OBG.

To this end, in April MREI presented commercial leasing and plot development opportunities to investors at Cityscape Abu Dhabi, an annual real estate event held in the emirate. Leasing opportunities primarily focus on the four towers of ADGM, which comprise 180,000 sq meters of grade-A office space and are already home to nearly 50 blue chip companies.

Meanwhile, a number of other mixed-use developments are already in progress.

Among these is the $1.5bn Al Maryah Central, a 290,000-sq-metre mixed-use development by Gulf Related – a joint venture between local developer Gulf Capital and US-based Related Companies – which is on track for completion by 2018.

This development is expected to include 214,000 sq metres of retail space, housing the first international Macy’s branch and Abu Dhabi’s first Bloomingdale’s. Additionally, Al Maryah Central will provide leasing opportunities for over 400 retail stores and 90 food and beverage outlets.

On the residential side, Taiwanese property developer Farglory broke ground on its housing and hotel tower project designed by London-based architect Richard Rogers in 2013, with a total investment of $1bn. After a number of setbacks, Farglory’s Al Maryah Plaza is moving ahead in stages, with the first tower set for completion in 2018.

While the 153,000-sq-metre Al Maryah Plaza is aimed at the high end of the market, Al Maryah Island in its entirety is expected to contain a mix of residential projects to appeal to a broad range of market segments, according to Al Mheiri.

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