Akoya Tees Off

Big Project ME visits Akoya by Damac, the Trump backed luxury golf and housing estate that is set to prove that Dubai’s largest private property developer is ready to move over to master development. Gavin Davids reports

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In May of last year, Damac Properties, the largest private property developer in the Middle East, announced plans to develop an 18-hole Championship Golf Course, right at the heart of its 3.91 million sqm master planned development, Akoya by Damac.

Since then, work on the project has progressed at pace, with the property developer keen to keep to its five year construction plan despite the mammoth size of the project. In fact, so confident is the developer, it recently acquired an additional 1.27 million sqm of land for the project, bringing its total area to 3.91 million sqm

Included across the Akoya project will be a variety of residential, retail, leisure and educational facilities, says Niall Mcloughlin, the senior vice president of marketing and communications at Damac, who took Big Project ME for a tour of the site.

Of course, at the heart of the project will be the Trump International Golf Club, Dubai – an 18 hole PGA Championship Golf Course which is being developed in collaboration with Damac. The 7,205 yard, par 71 course will be developed by renowned golf course architect, Gil Hanse.

Having previously designed the course for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and spearheaded the redesign of the famed ‘Blue Monster’ at Trump National Doral, Miami, Hanse was the perfect choice for the Dubai course says Mcloughlin.

“Trump International Golf Course had a relationship with Gil Hanse and we very quickly came to an agreement that they would do the golf course in Dubai. It’s their first golf course in Asia, which is a very important market for them and their global strategy.

Trump is a very well known brand that’s associated with luxury, they were aligned with what we wanted to do and deliver. We categorically said that we wanted the best golf course in the region. It has to be,” he tells Big Project ME at the Akoya site.

“That was associated with the other product portfolios of Damac, which was Fendi, which was Paramount. It was the perfect mix to deliver a lifestyle community,” he explains. “It was the extension of a relationship that was already working. We had partnerships with Fendi, with Versace and with Paramount. These were relationships that were working, that we liked and that understood the value proposition that branded residential brings to the market, so they were happy to work with us on the extension of the relationship.”

While it’s a given that the bulk of the land area will be taken up by the golf course, Mcloughlin adds that Damac has quite a few interesting plans in place for the remaining space.

“Out of the 3.91 million sqm there will be approximately 1.67 million sqm built. So it’s not going to be a very densely built project. That’s one of the components of the Akoya Park, which is a 418,000sqm green park.

“Dubai is known for residential living on golf courses, but we don’t think that there’s anything that will compare to our residents opening their back doors and having a 418,000 sqm garden,” he enthuses.

A number of main contracts have been awarded for the project, with 677 luxury villas awarded to contractors, while 480 apartment units also have contractors appointed.

“Trojan General Contracting is on board for 446 villas in various clusters and Ghantoot Contracting is on board for 231 villas,” says Mcloughlin. “Ascon is on board for six of the low rise buildings, which are ground plus seven. So the main contractors are on board for more than 50% of the villas, and for 30% of the apartments, the main contractors (have been appointed).”

Prior to this, work orders were placed with Al Naboodah Contracting Company for the bulk earthworks required for the project.
In addition, a 132KV substation has been built with ETA, while the Desert Group were appointed to oversee the construction, completion and maintenance of the golf driving range. More than 100 pieces of heavy machinery were used to shape the land, Mcloughlin says.

“We’re in talks with schools and retail centres to get them on board,” he adds. “The catchment area here is tremendous. We have Sports City, Motor City and Arabian Ranches all within driving distance. So the spa, the clubhouse and the retail centre will be very popular, we think.”

Given its size, it’s only natural that the construction schedule for the project comes under scrutiny, but Damac remains adamant that it will meet its scheduled completion dates.

The first stage of the villas will be completed in the first quarter of 2015, while the actual golf course is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

“Because we’ve broken up the contractors, they’ll work in parallel with each other,” says Mcloughlin. “We’re looking at a five year roll out for the whole development.”

“The end of 2017 (is when full completion will be achieved) and we anticipate things like the retail centre,. It’s 8,825sqm of retail and we’re in final negotiations with anchor tenants, and we’ll be signing HOTs within the next few days. It will have top end retail and luxury outlets and a 2,322.5sqm grocery supporting the residence.”

In order to keep up to date, Mcloughlin says that the thousands of workers on site will have to stick to a regimented work schedule that will see them continue the impressive pace they’ve set in 2013.

“The schedule isn’t 24 hours, but it’s a comprehensive schedule of six days a week. It’ll ramp up and down as time management dictates,” he asserts.

“Building something like this is much easier than building a 84-storey tower, for example. That’s because of shorter build terms and you don’t have the complexity in a villa. A villa can be built in 14 months; it isn’t any more difficult than anything we’ve been doing successfully for the last decade. The challenge here, which we believe we’ve overcome, is bringing a mix to the development, which adds value to it.

“The infrastructure is another challenge. Everything within the development, we’ll be doing, supported by the Dubai Government, in relation to the water supply and the electricity supply, which is being fed to the power station. The infrastructure internally is being developed by Damac, and that’s a major challenge, bringing the infrastructure along with the development. Projects such as this, as long as they’re planned correctly, to build them isn’t super challenging.”

With a team of 279 people already employed in Damac’s technical and development department, the Akoya project is set provide the base for the developers plans to move away from being a property developer to a master developer.

As Mcloughlin puts it, there is a huge opportunity awaiting Damac and it only needs the developer to reach out and seize it. He’s crystal clear that this is exactly what it intends to do.

“Historically in the UAE Damac has always been a plot developer, where we buy a plot from a master developer and we build a tower. We’ve always been looking to become a master developer because we believe that we have very strong capabilities. Internally, we have over 1,000 employees, so we have very strong capabilities, from project management to MEP to interior design and so forth.”

“We looked at our portfolio; we looked at what the market was missing and what would complement the offering within the lifestyle space within the market, and we believe that if there’s a Trump golf course in Dubai, it’ll have a lot of appeal to the golfing community, golf tourists will come to Dubai, and also the value of golf courses add to residential components.”


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