GEWAN ISLAND TO BE COMPLETED BY 2022

Qatar 2020 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to H.E. Mr. Turki bin Mohammed Al-Khater, Chairman of United Development Company (UDC), on 20 years in operation, the FIFA World Cup, and tourism in Qatar.

UDC is one of the leading public shareholding companies in Qatar. What are your main areas of activity and key milestones in recent years?

Since its inception 20 years ago, our company has sought to play a key role in the development of the State of Qatar across a variety of industries. Our activities span numerous fields, including real estate development, property management, infrastructure, and utilities, as well as maritime and hospitality related businesses. Across these various industries, we have focused on investing in long-term projects that contribute to Qatar's growth and provide positive shareholder value, such as The Pearl – Qatar. In recent years, the Island has been the focus of numerous development projects that feature residential units, office spaces, retail outlets, entertainment facilities, award-winning marinas and beaches. More than 350 retail brands are currently operational on the Island, occupying more than 115,000sqm of leased retail spaces. By the end of 2021, we expect to accommodate close to 50,000 residents. UDC has recently completed numerous milestones in the ongoing development of the Island. These include the construction of Al Mutahidah Towers,' the completion of construction, and the delivery of 10 villas in Giardino Village. We have also seen to gated compounds in Floresta Gardens and Giardino Village, as well as the awarding of operator and construction works for “United School International.” These developments, among others, have been coupled with the expansion of our offerings across the Island. They help serve a fast-growing population and an influx of tourists, all while initiating the development of our latest venture, Gewan Island, which will span across 400,000sqm. Once completed, this new island, with its 712 units, including apartments and different kinds of villas, will accommodate 3,500 residents and 3,000 daily visitors. The Island includes a golf course, an air-conditioned outdoor Crystal Walkway, which acts like the Island's spine, green parks, retail areas that will attract new brands to Doha, entertainment facilities, a sports club, and a mosque.

What is the role of your company in developing the State of Qatar?

Since its establishment, UDC has been committed to advancing the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030; a commitment that is reflected in our core values of developing sustainable projects that contribute to the diversification of our national economy and in our diverse activities to promote Qatar's tourism industry. The development of The Pearl-Qatar, our flagship sustainable island, which grew into a local and regional business and tourism destination, helps the whole country. It is a prime example of our contribution to positioning the State of Qatar on the regional and global map of outstanding real estate ventures. Our success in this regard is evident in the large number of awards we have accumulated over the years as well as the accolades recognizing The Pearl-Qatar as the go-to destination of modern living, business, and entertainment. In this context, our focus is to attract an increasing number of visitors to The Pearl-Qatar through our annual events, as well as our efforts to grow the number of retail outlets and brands on the Island. Our investment in the provision of public and private services to the Island's residents and businesses through dedicated directorate. Our various subsidiaries are also contributing to advancing this objective. At the same time, we have launched our newest project next to The Pearl-Qatar; our 400,000sqm Gewan Island. This island will add a new destination to Qatar's tourism sites and attractions. It will also attract businesses to invest in the country, which is a pillar of our Vision 2030.

Diversification remains at the core of the business strategy of your company, as well as in the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030. What are the most appealing sectors to continue diversifying your business portfolio, and how does UDC plan to penetrate them?

UDC owns a number of subsidiaries that form synergistic businesses, particularly when it comes to the real estate market. These companies have expanded their operations in recent years to offer our clients top quality services that continue to attract new residents and retail investors. These subsidiaries are Madinainova, which serves the needs of property owners and residents of The Pearl-Qatar as a community manager, facilities manager and registry services provider. Then there is The Pearl Owners Corporation (TPOC), which acts as the manager of the Co-Owners Associations, which was established by UDC. Third, the Hospitality Development Company grows, owns, and operates world-class hospitality businesses on the Island. Finally, Ronautica Middle East operates Porto Arabia Marina at The Pearl-Qatar. This is the largest marina facility in the Middle East, with a capacity of up to 891 berths.

Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which will require a strong investment in real estate, and will attract numerous visitors, creating a strong tourism sector. How is UDC contributing to the development of the country in that direction, enabling it to cope with the demands required?

At UDC, we believe that Qatar represents an attractive investment destination, particularly when it comes to the real estate sector. Qatar's attractive business environment, emerging tourism sector, and growing expat communities are fueling demand in the country's property market. All of these preparations are driven by a diversified economy and USD200 billion worth of investments in infrastructure projects in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022. The Pearl is going to be the same Pearl as it is now; however, there will be other hotels coming, so that means more places to have restaurants and have fun. The Hilton has been completed and there will be other hotels going up. We currently have Marsa Malaz Kempinski and we have a number of hotel apartments already available. We will host a large number of visitors to the World Cup, so we are providing many units here. We need to work with the committee to hammer out the details, but we are ready to host, and we have enough facilities to do that. UDC is also contributing to the promotion of the State of Qatar as a leading regional tourism destination. Our successes include annual events at The Pearl-Qatar and attracting over 350 retail brands to set up shop on the Island. These locations feature some of the world's most luxurious dining outlets and leading hotels such as the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, which offers 281 rooms and the development of a new, luxurious hotel in Marsa Arabia. These developments are all attracting a growing population of visitors from the region. Having said that, I should note that we plan to finish Gewan Island before 2022. On Gewan Island, there will be some additional retail shops and restaurants, as well as some recreational opportunities also, including a golf course and branded apartments. There will be Crystal Walkway, where there will be some restaurants as well as apartments and retail shops. It will be air-conditioned, and it is shaded, but it is not fully shaded. There will be residential villas and most of them are already sold. There are private islands and they have also been sold. Villas are being sold for QAR 45 million (USD 12 million), which is high. But the problem remains a lack of supply for villas.

What has been the international recognition of the project?

In 2018, The Pearl-Qatar was named the 2018-2019 “Best Mixed-Use Development” by the prestigious Arabian Property Awards. While the London-based International Finance Magazine named UDC as the Best Real Estate Development Company in Qatar in 2018. In 2019, we added two prestigious new accolades to our list of honors at The International Property Awards. These include the “Best Mixed-Use Development Award” for The Pearl-Qatar and the “Commercial High-Rise Development Award” for UDC Tower. This is within the Qatar vision, and one of the economic pillars in the vision is to provide a project that is in an area that has something for everybody. What we are doing at the Pearl-Qatar we are doing in a smaller scale in Gewan Island, with some additions.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

In 2019, we will pursue our development projects across The Pearl to further enhance the ambiance of the Island and attract new investors, residents, retailers and visitors. These projects include the construction of “United School International” in Giardino Village precinct. This school will help meet the needs of the community at The Pearl-Qatar and its surroundings. We are also going forward with the development of Floresta Gardens precinct, which will include residential towers, villas, and a shopping center. Finally, we are seeing to the development of Giardino Mall. It will be home to international brands as well as luxury residential development projects. UDC will also continue with the development of Gewan Island.