Mega Project Development

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The Sharjah Investment Centre (SIC) came one step closer to fruition last week when an engineering company was awarded the contract to carry out the infrastructure work at the development's site. The project is one of the largest such developments in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is expected to provide a significant boost to the local economy.

The contract, which is worth some Dh500m ($136m) was awarded to Darwish Engineering Emirates and is for all of the infrastructure work on the flagship development. The company is well known in the UAE and has been responsible for many construction projects, including roads, sports complexes and palaces. Work is expected to begin at the SIC site in the next few months.

The selection came just a month after officials at the centre announced that all of the initial industrial plots had sold out. Given that Sharjah already accounts for 40% of the UAE's industrial output, analysts are not surprised at the demand for space in the centre.

At 32m sq ft, the SIC is one of the UAE's largest mega projects. Located close to Sharjah International Airport and the Hamriyah Free Zone, the project is slated for mixed use, offering both commercial and residential space as well as plots for industrial units.

The SIC is being developed by Snasco, a company involved with a number of landmark projects under construction across the UAE. Snasco claims that the centre will be one of the most innovative mega projects in the UAE, using the latest design techniques.

Early in November Snasco officials signed a memorandum of understanding with the firm CityCool to provide an environmentally friendly centralised cooling system, aiming to reduce energy consumption. The residential facilities will include parks, food areas, retail areas, recreational and sporting facilities and health clubs.

The news of such a large development is welcome news as Sharjah currently has a shortage of commercial real estate space. Indeed, some agents are reporting that there is no office space currently available in the emirate. With a rapidly growing population, including many workers from Dubai who choose to live in less expensive Sharjah, rent prices are rising and demand for living space in the centre is expected to be just as fierce.

With other multi-use developments planned in Sharjah, the emirate's growing traffic problems may present challenges. The journey to Dubai, just a few miles away, can take up to two hours, and may discourage buyers looking to commute to the neighbouring emirate.

The government is working to alleviate the problem by expanding the current highway network, but plans for bigger roads have historically been one step behind the growth in the number of cars. A lack of public transport in the emirate adds to the problem. At current rates, even with the road network expansion underway, travel times are projected to increase in coming years, posing questions as to just how attractive the emirate's real estate developments will be to potential buyers.

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