BY THE SEA

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohammed Sultan Al Qadi, Managing Director & CEO of RAK Properties, on the foundation of the company, mixed-use projects, and plans for future development in the Emirate.

What have been RAK Properties' landmark projects?

RAK Properties was established thanks to the vision of His Highness, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi. At the time of inception we were seeking AED1 billion, but when we announced it demand far exceeded our expectations. Everyone wanted to participate and we ultimately reached AED56 billion. We discussed this with His Highness and decided to aim for AED2 billion and return the extra money back to investors. After that, we registered our company on the Security and Commodities Authority in the UAE because it is a public shareholding company. Our first projects were the Julphar Towers, where our offices are located, and Mina Al Arab, our biggest project. We started with the infrastructure of Mina Al Arab and the first phase of villas and apartments, which cost approximately AED1 billion. The plan at that time was to spend about AED10 billion on Mina Al Arab. There are about nine hotels planned along the coast, together with a big mall in a specific area of the development as well. Unfortunately, by the time we were going to float a tender for these projects, the economic crisis hit in 2008. By that time, we finished and launched the first part of Mina Al Arab. Now we have around 2,500 units completed to date. Furthermore, around this time, we finished the RAK Tower development in Abu Dhabi, which sold out completely.

How do you evaluate the market for eco-themed mixed-use projects such as Mina Al Arab in RAK?

These types of properties are ideal because Ras Al Khaimah has not previously had high-quality buildings, gated communities, or mixed-used developments. We decided on building hotels, malls, high-class villas, and medium-class apartments. The only difficulty we had was during the financial crisis. Otherwise, whatever we launched was sold at the time of sale. The demand was very high before 2008. After the crisis, we changed strategy and decided to follow market trends, which was affordable housing. From now onward, we hope that the domestic real estate sector will continue to improve, although there are many economic difficulties and much instability in the region. And yet our country is different because of the great infrastructure. We have 221 nationalities living peacefully, and there are no problems. We have around 10 million visitors in the UAE every year. In Ras Al Khaimah we have a different topography from the rest of the UAE because we have the mountains, the sea, and the sand dunes. We are also close to Dubai, just 45 minutes away. All this adds value. Also, we have a well-established free trade zone authority and they are attracting many investors, which encourages us to pursue new projects. Anantara Resort and Spa is already announced and under design, and will hopefully be completed by the end of 2018. We will also have another hotel coming online and we are currently in the process of finalizing that. We are also completing a masterplan for a huge mixed-use project in this area. This year we are developing the concept and then we will establish the details and tendering. There will be two hotels, a mall, beautiful residential apartments, villas, and along the beach there will a vibrant promenade lined with al fresco dining outlets, as well as retail and entertainment zones. There will be a lot of activity directly by the beach.

Why have you decided to expand beyond Ras Al Khaimah?

The UAE is unified space and the Emirates complement each other. Whatever we do in Dubai or Abu Dhabi complements Ras Al Khaimah.

What trends have you identified that will affect your approach to future projects?

Ras Al Khaimah is a rapidly-growing tourist destination, which is why we need to increase the number of hotels. I wish I had started hotels eight years ago. Another factor is that high-end homes are at the point of saturation. Mid-market houses are in demand now. There is demand in the high-end market, but people want beachfront properties. The majority would like to have an affordable apartment or villa, so that is what we are now taking into consideration. Also, maybe people look for the quality of shops in the area that add to the destination, like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and so on. This adds value to your projects.