From the camel tracks that hosted the first thoroughbred race meeting to a 45-million-sq-ft luxury community, District One, featuring the groundbreaking Crystal Lagoon, has come a long way. Mohammad Abdul Nasser Al Khayat, vice-president of commercial and free zone at Meydan Group, talks to Property Weekly about luxury during the launch of the Seagull Point tower, the latest addition in the community.
Phase one and two of District One have the luxury villas and the bespoke seven- and eight- bedroom mansions. What does the concept of luxury mean to you?
Having a background in real estate and being a developer, I believe in studying the market well. I’ve heard a lot about luxury in this market, but I haven’t really seen much of it, except of course for what private developers have built for themselves, such as their own private mansions. Most offerings in the market that call themselves luxury units, use ceramic tiles instead of porcelain, standard sanitary wear… even the wood is pretty standard. When we launched District One in January 2014, we looked into each and every detail — solid doors, the type of AC units that we would be offering — as if these buildings would be our very own. When we launched the four-, five- and six-bedrooms villas, they came in different styles to suit the different tastes and requirements of the buyer, such as Contemporary, Modern Arabic and Mediterranean.
People often want to build their dream home but before they actually do that they have to deal with authorities, contractors and several consultants. In fact there is a saying in Arabic that the first house you build, you sell; the second house you build, you lease; and the third house you build, you live in. It takes time and experience for people to get it right. Even architects, when they build their own homes, they make mistakes. So we wanted to build a community where people could come in and straightaway, arrange their furniture and they call it their home. We spoke to our investors and buyers and found out what they wanted. For us luxury is also creating a lifestyle; we looked at every detail while planning the community.
How many units are there in phase one and two?
There are approximately 600-plus villas and mansions and around 350 families have moved in.
What’s the price range?
The prices for villas and mansions range from Dh11 million to Dh100 million for the 8-bedroom mansions.
Have you managed to sell most of these?
We have sold 90 per cent of the inventory. Once you hit that price point, you just cannot go and build any mansion. It has to be tailor-made. We don’t build them until someone acquires the plot or the land. You have to understand the community well to invest in these plots and mansions. We also have the Blue Views, a bespoke 6-plus-bedroom “villansion” with features such as a leisure basement. For this category we develop the units in shell and core and then sell it. Buyers can either take our help to design the interiors or bring in their own experts if they have a specific taste in interiors. So we make sure that buyers have different options when it comes to the luxurious amenities.
From building luxury and super-luxury homes to launching apartments in phase three, has there been a change in how you see the market or investor behaviour?
The apartments were a wish list from families who had moved into our villas. They wanted something for their extended families or for their children at a different price point. Some wanted to invest in apartments to have a recurring income. So we have built the G+4, G+6, G+8, G+ 12 and now a G+14 and G+16. They go like a crescendo in an ascending order. We have kept the same unique features in our apartment as well. It will provide families with the security of a gated community and lots of areas for kids to play around.
In the first part of phase three, we have a total of 16 buildings and we have launched 11 of them for sale.
Tell us about your latest launch, the Seagull Point.
The Seagull Point is a G+14 tower inspired by the seagulls that started coming near the Crystal Lagoon. It will have all the amenities that are needed for a community to grow — a clubhouse, gym, library, kids’ area and coffee shop.
When will the building be complete?
Completion takes 18-24 months after the launch.
There is so much supply now in Mohammed Bin Rashid City. What about development of infrastructure?
Yes, our road networks are all in place, not just of District One but also whatever falls under the MBR City planning. All roads, the ins and outs, the substations are being developed. In fact, that’s one reason why we have taken time to develop the Meydan One Mall. We had announced the Mall in 2010, but then we revamped the master plan. We wanted the development to have proper accessibility and exposure.
Is Meydan One Mall ready?
Around 75 per cent of the structure is complete. It will cover a total of approximately 3 million sq ft. We are planning to open end of 2021.
But there is the Dubai Mall so close by? And another one coming up in Emaar Hills?
We thought instead of having multiple community centres in MBR City, it is better to have a lifestyle destination catering to the whole community. And we aren’t really calling it a mall. The Meydan One will be a climate-controlled destination. We will have hotels, food and beverage outlets, hypermarkets, there will be direct access to the Crystal Lagoon and the Dubai Canal. People can visit Meydan One on boats. There is also a cycling track that takes you to Downtown. It’s a healthy way of offering something different to the market.
Even for the retailers, rather than creating the usual box-like space and asking them to choose a place, we went the extra mile and invited them to be a part of planning and we tailor-made the spaces for them. We have also looked at rents, and have addressed the high rents retailers face elsewhere.
Are you thinking about supply control?
I feel it’s important to avoid competing with other developers. For instance, what Azizi is developing within MBR city does not compete with my product. Azizi has a totally different product. They are offering studios, one- and smaller two-bedroom apartments that cater to the mid-income sector. These units will ensure the footfall for the mall; they will drive the traffic. They are meant for managers and senior managers who earn between Dh20,000 and Dh40,000. I need that kind of people in my community. Sobha also has a different product at a different price point, so whatever product I bring into the market should not compete with my successor. The idea for us is to come with a unique product and a unique feature.
Does the Crystal Lagoon add to that?
Yes, very much so. It is the largest man-made lagoon in the world, measuring 7km and created with a patent technology that keeps the water looking crystal blue all year long. It’s ready for our residents to enjoy.
Everything started from the camel tents and the old Maktoum grandstand here?
Oh yes and it’s only been possible to develop so much, thanks to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The land in the past only had the old Maktoum grandstand and then later in 2001 we had the Millennium grandstand. The Dubai World Cup started from here. We have been cautious with our planning, with a good mix of low, medium, high-rise buildings. We are confident of the future.