Damac Properties has 1st DIFC homes on sale

DIFC is the only city free zone that can offer freehold property which is a major selling point for the development.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 24, 2004

Damac Properties has 1st DIFC homes on sale|~|Parktowerbody.jpg|~|Park Towers|~|Local readers will have noticed that Damac Properties recently launched its latest development, Park Towers. The two 30-storey towers will form a major part of DIFC’s residential component and are expected to complete in line with the rest of the development in 2008. As the first project in DIFC to be announced since the Gate Building, Construction Week decided to speak to the developer to find out more about the project. The ‘iconic’ Gate Building at DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) now looks virtually complete and so it is perhaps timely that more details of the next phase of the development should now be released. As reported in Construction Week earlier this year (Issue 16), DIFC set the ball rolling on the rest of the development with an open invitation for bids to develop the remainder of the DIFC masterplan behind Sheikh Zayed Road. As part of this process, Damac Properties, along with companies from all over the world, put in bids for individual plots. One that Damac bid for was plot PB02 – plot two of the Park Boulevard component. The bid submitted for this plot was selected by DIFC and has just been launched by Damac as Park Towers. Overall, the DIFC masterplan covers 48 ha of land and when complete will provide 2 million m2 of office space, more than enough to attract large financial institutions and their vast back-of-house operations. Designed by Gensler, the masterplan not only provides office space but also offers residential, retail and entertainment space too. By doing this the development will not just be a place of work, but will become a community for both work and play. This concept reflects recent moves in the traditional financial centres, such as London where institutions have moved to new developments like Canary Wharf. As an integrated development, DIFC will provide the central infrastructure, like the basic utilities, district cooling and IT cabling, up to the boundary of the individual plots. From there the developers are responsible for ‘hooking’ up their buildings to the grid. As the only inner city free zone DIFC will offer freehold property to investors and this selling point attracted a number of bids for plots that offer the residential space. “The majority of DIFC is obviously commercial with a fairly large retail component as well; but there are a number of plots that have residential space,” says Peter R Riddoch, chief executive officer, Damac Properties. Naturally, the residential properties, including Park Towers, have to incorporate DIFC’s concept of an integrated podium that takes up the first five levels, two below ground and three above ground. These levels will have parking spaces and retail outlets and altogether will create 250 000 m2 of retail space that starts at the Gate Building in a fully climate-controlled environment throughout DIFC. Above the podium will be the fully pedestrianised plaza level. This level has been designed as a pleasant pedestrian thoroughfare with soft landscaping and water features. Other criteria were also laid down by DIFC for the individual buildings when the tender packs were issued in February. Details such as parking ratios and how much open space had to be created around the building were fully explained so that each building seamlessly fits into the overall community feel of the development. “The criteria set out by DIFC didn’t put any constraints on the design of Park Towers. In fact Damac felt that the DIFC criteria were very representative of how a site like this should be exploited. I think it is fair to say that DIFC spent a lot of time during the materplan stage making sure that each plot was developed so that it not only fitted in with their overall concept, but also made commercial sense on an individual basis for the various developers involved,” says Riddoch. Damac Properties held an international design competition for Park Towers. A total of nine international firms we invited to submit designs. “Frankly all nine submissions were good and the three short-listed designs were superb, but in the end Gensler won out,” says Riddoch. Overall Park Towers has a gross floor area of 60 800 m2. Some 12 000 m2 of this space will be commercial and retail space; 5000 m2 retail and 70000 m2 commercial. The remaining 488 000 m2 will be residential space in the two towers. Three extra levels of podium have been added to the five levels that have to be provided for the integrated podium. Office space will be provided on these levels. The top of the podium will be used for the leisure facilities for the two towers, which will include a swimming pool and tennis courts. The two dedicated residential towers will rise from either side of the podium. The structures will be 30 storeys high and will have an egg-shaped floor plate. In total each tower will have 216 apartments ranging from one bedroom to three bedroom units. The design has yet to be finalised on the upper floors of the building as a number of private clients have expressed interest in developing their own penthouses and utilise the open slots that are visible on one of the upper floors of both towers. “We have been approached by a number of individuals who would like to take a penthouse and the open slots could then become private pool decks with an infinity pool and a panoramic view,” says Riddoch. “We are in discussions with clients to find out whether or not this is feasible,” he adds. As with any modern construction project, value engineering has been a major consideration. “Although it looks a very special building, we spent a lot of time with the consultants to ensure that it is commercially viable. The first phase of value engineering was completed before we came to the market, and another phase will take place after the summer,” says Riddoch. Onsite construction, as set by the DIFC masterplan, is not scheduled to begin until mid-2006 but an earlier start may be possible. “We have asked DIFC to see if whether or not the start date can be brought forward to mid-2005,” says Riddoch. The two-year construction programmes means that if work starts in mid-2006 the project should be complete in mid 2008. According to Riddoch the contracts for the construction will be awarded as a separate excavation and piling package, and a typical main contract responsible for the basement levels, and the superstructure including the podium and two towers. “For me it always better to use just one contractor, but if there are any time related issues that put the contractor under pressure then the second tower is clearly sufficiently independent to give it to a second contractor,” says Riddoch. ||**||

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