Anyone who's been to Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) recently would acknowledge that the community has come a long way. Relegated to being dubbed the "poor cousin of Dubai Marina", JLT stands vindicated today, enjoying a new lease of life after the opening of the two Metro stations. Notwithstanding a few pet peeves, the community is now self-sufficient, with a smattering of mini marts, restaurants and beauty salons.
"I have been living in the Green Lakes Towers for two-and-a-half years now," says Ghassan Ghellal, a JLT resident. "The apparent changes have mainly taken place over the past six months. The area, which used to look like a large construction site, is now filled with greenery, has walking and cycling pavements and jogging tracks for sports lovers. Furthermore, the lakes are now permanently filled, and the walkways around the lakes have been completed and this has incentivised a number of retail outlets to open," adds Ghassan, who is also a business development manager at Halcon Real Estate.
Dining options aplenty
Situated in cluster S, the Green Lakes Towers are popular, owing to their proximity to the Dubai Marina Metro station as well as the abundance of eateries such as Green Lakes Food Court, Kitchen India, Subway, All Day Mini Mart and Counter Culture Café. "Until a year ago, my building had no shops and I'd to drive to The Springs to get my basic food supply," recalls Ghassan.
While Dubai Marina has the lure of a glamorous lifestyle, courtesy of the beach and stretch of five-star hotels, residents are miffed at the limited parking spaces and peak-hour traffic chaos. Meanwhile, buildings in JLT offer abundant parking — both surface and underground — for residents, who own two or three cars, and even accommodates visitors' vehicles easily.
"I think the tag, ‘poor cousin of Dubai Marina', is overrated," says Shalu Chandran, a resident in Saba Tower 2. "JLT offers some very good apartments — some much bigger than those in Dubai Marina [and cheaper] and residents don't have to deal with the horrendous evening traffic."
Easy access to all parts of town
In addition to the Metro that services JLT very well, the area also offers easy access to Shaikh Zayed Road (towards Dubai) as well as Abu Dhabi and Jebel Ali. The footbridge connecting JLT to Dubai Marina brings within walking distance the Dubai Marina Mall (Waitrose supermarket and Reel Cinemas), the Dubai Marina Yacht Club, and the restaurants and boutiques at the Marina Walk and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) Walk.
Ghassan says, "You can have two cars and not worry about parking them and your visitors don't have to worry about driving to your place any time of the day. This is a great feature for commercial clients."
While the residents' biggest bugbear has remained the one-way roads that necessitate taking a detour around JLT to access a building in another cluster, there is, however, no traffic chaos to contend with, even during peak hours. Though the roundabout leading to Dubai could get clogged a bit during rush hours, it's been a smooth ride for residents so far. "The road planning is awful. All the roads are one-way, which is not convenient to access the various towers in JLT," complains Ghaith Nazzal, a resident in Damac's Lake Terrace Tower.
Echoing his angst, Shalu adds, "As a resident, you deal with it, but every time you invite friends over you can expect some nagging." In the same vein, Ghassan says, "I could cut my journey to work by half if I didn't have to do that, as most of it involves simply driving around JLT."
Which clusters to avoid?
Though competitive rentals have made JLT popular among tenants, it's necessary to do your homework before zeroing in on a particular tower. Construction on the Parallel Road project has rendered access to clusters F to N (JLT West) rather circuitous.
Shalu says, "A lot of projects have been abandoned, especially in the second half of JLT, or work is still ongoing, which means the apartments get painfully dusty."
According to Mario Volpi, sales and leasing manager, Powerhouse Properties, "Occupancy in Icon Tower 2 has been affected due to its location and apartment sizes." He recommends the Al Seef Towers and Tamweel Tower (Cluster U), Green Lakes (Cluster S), Al Shera Tower, Madina Tower, Indigo and Lake Terrace (Cluster D) as the best towers in JLT.
Endorsing the same towers, Steve Crasto, property consultant, Halcon Real Estate, says, "These towers are holding on at 85 to 90 per cent occupancy. The main reason is that these buildings are well-maintained. They also offer big units and good quality, except Indigo Tower, where the units are of average size."
Influx of new tenants
With the softening of rents in JLT, several tenants have moved in from Discovery Gardens and Dubai Marina. Mario says, "There has been a good level of movement to JLT from Abu Dhabi commuters as well. There has also been a flight to quality, so more people have moved from inferior towers to better ones in the Dubai Marina."
Most towers in JLT offer facilities such as gyms with saunas and/or steam rooms, leisure pools; some even have residents' lounges, outside recreational areas, children's play areas, and so on. Steve says, "The Madina Tower, Green Lakes, Gold Crest Views and Lake Terrace deserve a special mention."
As part of the beautification process in JLT, children's play areas have been installed in most established clusters. This is a huge bonus for the community, which was until recently bandied about as "pedestrian-unfriendly".
Major supermarkets that have opened in JLT include two Carrefour Express marts in the Palladium and Armada Towers, a Spinneys near the Bonnington Hotel, a Park N Shop in the Al Shera Tower and several mini marts that offer home delivery.
"As more shops and cafés open in JLT, it will only further attract more residents to the area," says Ghassan. "Also with the abundant office space in JLT, there are plenty of class A commercial tenants taking up offices in the area, and some of the employees in these companies will be relocating to JLT for the sake of convenience."
Complaints about retail mix
However, sceptics feel it will take some time before JLT can enjoy a wide selection of cafés and restaurants. Says Ghaith, "All the retail spaces in my cluster are occupied, but the mix is not right. All that we have are restaurants, supermarkets and beauty salons. There are no gyms and cafés."
However, a cursory drive around JLT illustrates a healthy mix of retail options. Apart from multiple mini marts, there are both male and female beauty salons, laundromats, dental centres, medical clinics and a pharmacy in Cluster E. Other interesting amenities include a Kids' World Creative Learning Centre, Kcal Healthy Fast Food, Concept 1010 Fitness Studio (HDS Tower) and The Champions Club (kick-boxing, aerobics and personal training centre) in Icon Tower 2.
Residents could also let their hair down and unwind at the Bonnington Tower Hotel (Cluster J), where Healey's Terrace, McGettigans Irish Pub and The Cavendish restaurant are steadily gaining popularity. Says Bruno Guilloux, general manager, Bonnington Tower Hotel, "Our pubs and eateries are receiving a good response from JLT residents and they're definitely giving an added community feel to the area. Occupancy and revenue have almost doubled year on year."
The Oaks Liwa Heights hotel is also open in Cluster W while a Mövenpick Hotel is scheduled to open in the Laguna Tower soon.
"I think JLT is as dynamic as the Marina in terms of entertainment facilities and scores high on convenience too," says Firas Tarazi, a resident of Lake View Tower.
Demand base: singles, couples, small families
While Dubai Marina is primarily a residential area, JLT residents can leverage the community's mixed-use component to mix work with play. Since most high-rise buildings typically attract singles and small families, real estate agents admit that demand for studios and one-bedroom apartments in JLT is high among working executives and young couples.
Though JLT residents may not boast such camaraderie as evident in low-rise communities such as Discovery Gardens and Motor City, a few pioneers have set up a JLT Community Facebook page.
Shalu says, "The Facebook page definitely needs more action — but it's a start. They announce new store and restaurant openings. There have also been some Friday Markets taking place in JLT."
Rents in JLT
- Studio: Dh30K to 40K
- 1-bedroom apartment: Dh40K to 75K
- 2-bedroom apartment: Dh55K to 120K
- 3 bedroom apartment: Dh85K to Dh155K
Source: Halcon Real Estate