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UAE construction sector returns to form

Story Highlights
  • The restart of stalled, long-term projects and new announcements in the UAE present fresh opportunities for construction companies

UAE construction sector returns to form

On 20 September, hundreds of people queued to buy property on Dubai’s Palm Jebel Ali. The rush to purchase units on the project, which stalled in 2008, is the latest sign of a return to form for the UAE’s construction sector.  

The buoyant market conditions have prompted major UAE real estate developers to restart halted long-term projects.

In the past year, government-controlled developer Nakheel has released details of new masterplans for Palm Jebel Ali and the offshore islands it has reclaimed off the Deira Corniche, known as Dubai Islands.

Both developments are more high-end, low-rise developments that better reflect the dynamics of the post-pandemic market.

Nakheel also restarted the construction works on its Palm Beach towers project in Palm Jumeirah. Previously known as Palm Gateway, the project was rebranded and relaunched in October 2022.

Construction stopped in 2019 after structural concrete work had been completed for about 10 levels of the towers.

Indian contractor Shapoorji Pallonji will deliver the project.

Emaar Properties also announced the comeback of Dubai Creek Tower. The scheme made no significant progress after concrete pile cap works were completed in 2018.

First launched in 2015, the project was billed as the world’s tallest man-made structure, surpassing the height of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. The project is being redesigned, which is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024. Construction is slated to begin in the second half of 2024.

Towering ambitions

The favourable market conditions have led another Dubai-based private developer, Azizi Developments, to restart plans to construct what it said would be the world’s second-tallest tower.

The plan to restart work on the rebranded AED3bn ($817m) 122-storey Entisar Tower project received a boost when Azizi purchased a plot of land on Sheikh Zayed Road next to World Trade Centre Metro Station 2 from Meydan. 

UK-based Atkins worked on the tower’s design for Azizi Developments after an original design was prepared for Meydan by Dubai-based AE7.

Pearl demolition
Demolition at the Dubai Pearl site in 2023, viewed from the MEED office in Dubai Media City

After two aborted attempts, development is expected to start again at the Dubai Pearl site, located north of Dubai Media City close to the Palm Jumeirah.

The construction work on the project stalled after the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The structures erected for the previous project have been demolished this year. 

Dubai Holding, which now owns the land, has held a design competition and is in the final stages of selecting the winning architect. Local project management firm North 25 is overseeing the design competition.

Market overview

With more than $356bn-worth of private real estate developments and public building and housing programmes planned or under way, the UAE is the region’s second-biggest construction projects market, after Saudi Arabia.

After a dismal performance in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturn, the construction sector is on course for a strong comeback. 

In 2021, contract awards worth about $10bn were recorded, an increase of 13.5 per cent over the previous year.

Continuing the same momentum, 2022 also grew by about 50 per cent to reach the $15bn mark, further increasing investor confidence. 

According to data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects, the $17bn-worth of contract awards in 2023 has already surpassed the full-year total achieved in 2022.

The prospects for the rest of this year are promising. Nearly $8bn of contracts are already at the bid evaluation stage, and another $2bn are at the main contract bid and prequalification stages.

Projects pipeline

Renewed work opportunities for construction companies are presented by the restart of projects and new announcements in the UAE.

Real estate schemes dominate the country’s list of future projects. 

In July, Emaar announced The Oasis project, which covers a total land area of more than 9.4 million square metres close to Dubai Investments Park. The $20bn project involves building over 7,000 residential units along with water canals, lakes and parks. It will also include the development of a 150,000 sq m retail area. 

In October, Azizi Developments unveiled the Azizi Venice project in Dubai South. The AED30bn ($8.17bn) mixed-use development will offer over 30,000 residential units, including 100 mid-rise apartment complexes, 400 villas, two five-star hotels and an opera house.

Early this year, Mohamed Alabbar launched the $3.5bn Ramhan Island project off the coast of Abu Dhabi. The development will consist of 1,800 villas, 1,000 residences, a hotel and a marina. The project is being developed through Eagle Hills Development Company.

In July, Aldar Properties and the Abu Dhabi Housing Authority announced the AED8bn ($2.2bn) Balghaiylam Abu Dhabi residential project.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2026 and will include 1,743 housing units. It is part of the Abu Dhabi government’s plan to employ public-private partnerships (PPPs) to provide affordable housing for its citizens through real estate schemes developed by approved developers.


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