Bloom Gardens, a Mediterranean inspired community, is located on the Eastern Mangrove Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Demand for integrated communities is growing steadily in the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

The ongoing pandemic has had a profound effect in shifting our collective understanding of community — and rightly so. The idea of a community as a physical location has been less prominent in recent decades. However, Covid-19 has served to highlight the importance of social connectivity on well-being; and the ways in which the home and its surroundings contribute to overall happiness. Viewing community through this lens, integrated communities, where people can work, shop, dine, socialise, and live, truly represent the benchmark in modern living.

In the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, the importance of diversity, inclusivity and a high standard of living are identified as key drivers in attracting a highly skilled workforce, which is essential to sustained economic development. Community is a vital component in reaching this goal.

Creating safe and dynamic communities in which people of all nationalities can prosper is the key to attracting and retaining top talent to support the growth of a strong knowledge-based economy. As in advanced society, diversity is key to a strong community. The community should supersede its individual residents; it should be flexible enough to grow and evolve with its diverse resident base. While this may appear to be an elusive ideal, this is not the case. In fact, it is more than achievable — and the key lies in the community’s design.

While accessibility will always be a major driver when choosing a new home, a strong urban design with ample green space and a unique community ambience in which residents can lose themselves in a picture-perfect setting, is equally important. This was the rationale behind Bloom Gardens — a Mediterranean inspired community located on the Eastern Mangrove Corniche in Abu Dhabi, which offers a total of more than 600 villas and townhouses and is home to residents of a large number of nationalities.

Market trends

According to a 2020 MENA-wide report by Savills, Lockdown Living, the top priorities when choosing a residential space for people during the pandemic were: price at 23 per cent, property size at 19 per cent, community amenities at 18 per cent and proximity to work at 15 per cent. A growing need for more room and access to community amenities appears to be behind a renewed interest in villas and townhouses over high rise apartments. This shift is supported by CBRE’s 2021 Q3 UAE Market Review. The study noted that while Abu Dhabi’s apartment rental rates fell 6.8 per cent in the 12 months to August 2021, villa rents increased by 2.6 per cent. This trend was replicated in Dubai, which witnessed its highest ever growth rate for villas on record with an increase of 15.5 per cent. The study highlights the strength of interest in well established integrated communities in the UAE, such as Bloom Gardens.

Location is usually a key contributor when choosing a new home. Being close to major transport links, and important day-to-day facilities such as schools, clinics and supermarkets are top considerations. This is, perhaps, where integrated communities truly come into their own. As well as providing easy access to existing amenities, many also feature a wide range of their own facilities and services. These include highly reputable schools and nurseries, excellent healthcare facilities, prayer halls, 24-hour security, state-of-the-art gyms and clubhouses, children’s play areas, swimming pools and sporting facilities, and a wide range of retail and F&B outlets.

Community facilities also promote social connectivity and provide lively hubs in which residents can meet and relax.

The importance of outdoor space has also emerged as a non-negotiable element due to the pandemic. A November 2020 report by Emirates Nature-WWF that surveyed UAE youth on their priorities for a post-Covid world, found that 92 per cent want to place more emphasis on traditional values and practices that connect us with nature.

While there are several important advantages to integrated communities for people, there are also wider societal and economic advantages. Businesses that operate within an integrated community can expect to experience higher and more consistent footfall, due to their proximity and convenience to residents. CBRE’s UAE Market Review Q3 2021 reveals an increased demand for space, stemming from supermarkets, pharmacies and restaurant operators looking to serve a rise in demand levels in high-quality up-and-coming communities. The report also notes a marked increase in the number of homegrown and international brands seeking to enter the market or expand their operations within integrated communities, providing even greater choice for residents.

Environment focus

Sustainability is another major advantage of integrated communities. One of the key priorities in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is to ensure the development of a well-managed urban environment with sustainability at its core — and this means improving the quality of air, increasing the contribution of clean energy, and implementing green growth plans. Integrated communities are very pedestrian friendly meaning fewer cars on the road, and ultimately a lower carbon footprint. They also allow for the consolidation of infrastructure as opposed to having to build independent systems. This presents strong opportunities for energy efficiency and sustainable building practices.

At Bloom, our ambition is to develop sustainable and integrated communities that offer an enriching lifestyle and quality of life. The pandemic has highlighted that we must approach life holistically; our lives do not exist in silo – and neither should our homes. We want to attract residents and investors alike that share our passion for developing communities in which people of all ages and nationalities can create a life which is most meaningful to them. 

The writer is CEO, Bloom Holding

About Bloom Holding
A subsidiary of National Holding, Bloom Holding is one of the UAE’s leading holding companies, committed to building, operating, and investing in premium communities and enriching the lives of customers through the development and management of real estate, education, and hospitality assets.
Bloom Holding is driven by its vision to go beyond the buyer and investors’ expectations through partnerships with best-in-class providers to deliver a superior quality of life, while contributing towards societal and economic advancement. Bloom Properties specialises in developing residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects in key lifestyle destinations such as Saadiyat Island and Al Bateen in Abu Dhabi and Jumeirah Village Circle in Dubai. Some of its key projects are Bloom Gardens, Bloom Marina, Bloom Central, Park View, Soho Square, Bloom Towers and Bloom Heights.
Bloom Properties has delivered more than 5,000 units to date and has over 4,000 in the pipeline. The company also has 1,000 units in its leasing portfolio. Under its hospitality arm, Bloom has two hotels — Marriott Downtown and The Abu Dhabi EDITION, with a total of 630 guest rooms and 128 executive apartments.
Bloom Education currently owns 11 schools, which are home to 13,000 students. This includes four private international schools, seven charter schools and one nursery. Its facilities management arm, bfm, has more than 5,000 units under its management.

Carlos Wakim, Chief Executive Officer

Carlos Wakim is the Chief Executive Officer of Bloom Holding. He manages operations across all Bloom Holding companies, including real estate, education, hospitality and lease, and facilities management services.

Carlos Wakim Image Credit: Supplied

Wakim has over 20 years of leadership experience in some of the region’s leading real-estate companies, where he has led their success and expansion. He uses his considerable industry experience to add value to Bloom Holding through the delivery of its strategic mandate to develop integrated real estate solutions and create superior living experiences.

Prior to joining Bloom Holding, Wakim has held a number of senior leadership roles in the real estate industry. He joined Bloom Holding from Amaala, a public investment fund initiative in Saudi Arabia, where he held the position of Chief Development Officer overlooking the entirety of its projects’ portfolio.

Wakim also enjoyed a distinguished track record in some of the leading real estate companies across the region including TDIC, Emaar and Zabeel Properties.