What is the history behind Falconcity of Wonders?
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum had asked the private sector how it could support the government's efforts to develop Dubai. One of our major areas of expertise is real estate and construction. We own real estate in Dubai and have built important buildings and infrastructure projects. Our chairman presented Falconcity of Wonders to His Highness and he agreed to take it forward. In September 2005, this company was launched. This city of over 41 million sqft is built in the shape of a falcon, in tribute to the UAE's emblem. We continue to move forward with constructing, building, and managing this megaproject. Every day brings new challenges and new expectations and we aim to complete this project by 2020, before the Expo.
Have you implemented any smart or green energy innovations in the Falconcity project?
Sustainability is key. We have a new directive from our chairman to study how our new constructions can be LED-certified. We have developed our own sewage treatment plant (STP) that produces reclaimed water and sludge suitable for irrigation and landscaping. We also work on installing solar panel photovoltaic systems that will connect all the villas in the community to the smart grid, following the US Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED standards. We are looking into smart homes. When we started the construction of the 202 villas in the eastern residences we made it a requirement that these villas would be smart.
What are your future plans for the project?
Our approved master plan contains approximately 1,300 villas and three pyramids that will be different hotel-apartments for sale. There will be an educational zone, a Falconcity mall, and a Falconcity fun city. We have traveled the world to learn from other people's experiences and will incorporate themes in the project, such as London, Venice, Rome, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Taj Arabia, Beirut, and Old Dubai. We will also have a Paris area with a Dubai Eiffel Tower, and restaurants with high-class, high-brand shopping, fashion, and more. The Eiffel Tower will be approximately 325m tall and will be an office building. The New York area with a Central Park will be about 1 million sqft. The majority of our time is not spent on supervising this project but improving it. We cannot implement the same ideas we had in 2005 now because there is always new technology, new ideas, and new concepts. We have to see how we can modify our project because Dubai is a dynamic city. If you do not change and follow the trends, you will be left behind, and our clients expect the best.
How are you attracting foreign investment to this project?
Foreign investors look for a secure platform for their investment. Thanks to the government of Dubai, the real estate regulatory authority ensures investments here are safe. We have the Central Bank, which makes such investments safe. An investor also looks for a return on investment (ROI). It is by being creative and being unique that we attract investment and rise above the rest of the market. The only project that has such a unique master plan is the Palm Jumairah. We consider how to implement education and entertainment facilities together, or “edutainment."
What is your outlook for the real estate market in the medium term?
Many say there is oversupply of real estate in Dubai. It is better to have oversupply than undersupply, which increases the price of rent and living costs and people cannot afford to live here anymore. We have 2020 coming soon and we should start planning for that. We are a country that has our plans, targets, and our goals ready. We look for sustainability for the next 50 years by planning today and will not leave anything to luck or fate. We have to plan today to know where we are going in the future.