While Sharjah is expanding its freehold base, the plan for the new CBD in the emirate is to tap leasing interest first. This way provides the best route to get a feel of office demand dynamics, says the Arada CEO Ahmed Alkhoshaibi. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The initial set of office buildings that will make up Sharjah’s planned Central Business District (CBD) will strictly be for leasing, according to a top official with the developer Arada. The CBD, announced this year, will eventually expand to 4.3 million square feet, with the first cluster taking up 812,000 square feet to it.

The decision to stick with leasing these offices is telling, because Sharjah has just updated its freehold laws, which also says that property assets other than resident could be sold to investors. “Obviously, freehold has been approved, but we will stick to renting those initial 8 buildings,” said Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, CEO of Arada. “One of these will be for Arada’s own corporate HQ.

“The reason we are renting is because we want to control Phase 1, see how the market is responding to the new space and thus get a feel for the later phases of the CBD.

Arada CBD rentals
On the offices, Arada's lease rates are between Dh1,000-Dh1,500 per square metre for a shell-and-core unit. (Elsewhere in Sharjah, the highest leases rats for prime office space is around 1200 per square metre.)

Sharjah hasn’t had a properly demarcated Central Business District, and that’s why we feel creating this new one as part of an already established mixed-use destination will work.

- Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, CEO of Arada
The main construction awards for the CBD buildings are still to be awarded. Arada expects the first buildings to be read in H1-2025. Image Credit: Supplied

Leasing talks for the Aljada offices have started and the first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in the first-half of 2025. (Stantec has been awarded the design contract. First-half 2023 will see more tenders being awarded on the CBD work) “Having a CBD can transform a city, and we expect high demand from Sharjah government entities, banks and other Tier 1 tenants for the CBD,” the CEO added. “There will also be leasing options for SMEs, that’s always going to be part of the tenant mix.”

These Grade A office buildings are coming up as part of the Dh24 billion ‘Aljada’ master-development, which will see more residents moving into their new homes before the year is out. The destination will also host hotels, schools and entertainment options, all over a 24 million square feet area set at the intersection of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road and Al Dhaid-Masafi Road (E88).

Sharjah’s onto new destinations

On its part, the Sharjah authorities have embarked on creating new mixed-use destinations across under-tapped locations. Emphasis has been placed on hospitality too, some of which embedded into heritage sites.

Also, building industrial/commercial hubs and consolidating the emirate’s used-car operations have also been accelerated. On the retail side, it was in March 2021 that the Dh2.6 billion City Centre Al Zahia mall opened and was met instantly with a robust response from shoppers and retailers.

However, it’s the first time that creating a mass of new office space is being attempted, and the too all in one location. “The CBD was always part of the Aljada masterplan, and this year we felt it was a good time to formally launch,” said Alkhoshaibi. “All the other elements we launched have grown in profile, and adding the CBD will bring an additional pull to the entertainment and retail capacity we are creating.”

Sharjah office demand

Being Grade A buildings, the rents for Aljada’s office spaces will come at a premium. Those details are still being fine-tuned by the leasing team.

As for office rental demand in the emirate, there are more signs that leasing activity is picking up nicely, with SMEs, light industrial businesses signing up.

More residents head to Sharjah’s Aljada
Around 1,500 homes have been delivered at Aljada, the Dh24 billion mixed-use development in Sharjah. Another 5,000 odd units will be with their owners in the early weeks of 2023 as the resident population expands there.