Born in north London in 1912, Harold Samuel had originally trained to be a surveyor before becoming an estate agent and eventually acquiring Land Securities Investment Trust in 1944.
Often erroneously credited with coining the property tricolon ‘location, location, location’, his keen eye for identifying opportunity in Britain’s post-war cities helped him to expand from just three modest properties at the start of his career into one of the London Stock Exchange’s largest companies. While he might not be the first person to emphasise the importance of location, he certainly wasn’t the last.
Unlike the pre-existing cities of Europe that evolved over centuries, identifying what made a strategic location within emerging economies such as the Middle East and Asia took a lot more calculated risk. Certainly, Dubai was no exception.
Still unexplored land
Expanding west from the creek, the Emirate’s growth was less driven around a single, centralised district, but several that were either under construction or earmarked for future development. Even by the time Chuck Berry opened Hard Rock Café on Sheikh Zayed Road in December 1997, at what is now the exit for Media City, areas such as the Marina, JBR and JLT were still deserted and the location was considered by many as an outpost enroute to Abu Dhabi; much less a part of Dubai.
Just five years later, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) was established with two mandates - to attract, enable and promote trade through the Emirate, and to fulfil its duties as the master-developer for the Jumeirah Lake Towers community.
In master planning the community, our team had to think carefully about how it would develop the 180-hectare site, and how it would attract the necessary residents and businesses to populate a plan that included 87 towers, while incorporating the six design principles of connected communities, transport and mobility, assets and landmarks, smart and connected compact city, sustainability and pedestrian-oriented.
Growing beyond property
Separated into 26 clusters, with almost all containing three towers each, construction began shortly after incorporation with the Saba Tower, becoming the first to be completed in December 2006. From the earliest stages, it was clear to both DMCC and our national leadership that anchoring the community in something beyond property would be critical for its long-term success.
In 2002, a consortium of Standard, Deutsche, and Dubai Islamic bank helped to launch a ground-breaking gold Sukuk, which raised $200 million, the proceeds of which were used to finance the construction of the community’s first commercial towers, namely Gold, Silver and Almas. In spite of the towers being completed in 2008 amidst a global recession, DMCC ensured its community was equipped with the necessary infrastructure to host companies and exchanges, forging a foundation of what was to come, including a state-of-the-art vault designed in coordination with Brinks insured to hold more than $1 billion in assets.
It is worth mentioning that by raising funds for its own development, DMCC remains unique amongst its peers as an autonomous entity that pulled itself up by its own boot straps in order to meet its own uncompromising vision; one of the many reasons it became Dubai’s first government entity to receive a fully interactive rating from Standard & Poor, second only ADIA in the UAE.
A community buzz
With the DGCX and Dubai Diamond Exchange firmly established, DMCC’s role as master-developer pivoted from underlying infrastructure and towards making JLT a community in the truest sense of the word. In support of better accessibility, the DMCC’s two metro stations opened in 2010, enabling fast, reliable, and affordable transport for both commuters and visitors, while simultaneously providing pedestrian access to Dubai Marina, JBR, and ultimately the beach.
By listening to feedback from the community, DMCC made the decision to change the purpose of one of its lakes to become a central park, creating a large green space of 55,000 square metres, as well as the JLT dog park, one of the few dedicated places in the city that caters to man’s best friend.
DMCC also introduced several outdoor, free-to-use facilities including the JLT Court, which was inaugurated by the late legend, Kobe Bryant, while simultaneously encouraging the establishment of fitness and beauty boutiques across the clusters, of which today there are 324. In the spirit of encouraging entrepreneurs to take a greater interest in health and sports, the establishment of SK Sports Holding DMCC, a venture founded by footballing ace Clarence Seedorf and MMA champion Khabib Nurmagmomedov, will soon support youth training in both disciplines from their forthcoming academy.
Spicing up F&B
In a similar story, JLT’s F&B diversity has also been a crucial focal point for residents and commuters who’ve seen their choices expand from a handful of cafés to some of Dubai’s most sought-after eateries ranging from noodle bars to bistros, to partnership projects with Dubai-based entrepreneur, Tom Arnell of Bull & Roo. Altogether, JLT is now home to more than 460 cafes, restaurants, and hotels, resulting in cuisine for every palate within the highly multicultural community.
This attention towards community living didn’t dampen DMCC’s appetite for business or its zeal to continue to support its member companies thrive. In 2015, it opened its dedicated, Grade A office tower, One JLT, a 26,000 square metre space designed to LEED Gold certifications that galvanised the spirit of sustainability and innovative technologies into a single, centrally located project.
With almost every conceivable product or service now available within less than two square kilometres it was no surprise that in 2017, JLT secured the ‘People’s Choice Family Friendly Location of the Year Award’, as well as an ‘Infrastructure & Real Estate Excellence Award’.