Abdullah Al Abdooli, Managing Director and CEO of the newly created holding company Marjan Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Ras Al Khaimah will develop ample affordable housing and staff accommodation as it targets opportunities in real estate beyond hotels and tourist attractions.

“Even building offices could be an opportunity — there’s nothing that says master-developers in Ras Al Khaimah should solely focus on high-end projects,” said Abdullah Al Abdooli, Managing Director and CEO of the newly created holding company Marjan. “The emirate has the land and the demographics that would make it worthwhile for investors/developers to come in.

“And to create projects that would give them their expected IRRs (internal rate of return).”

Marjan expects to announce two high-profile projects next year — it certainly has the land bank to do so, currently holding 19 million square metres in areas such as Al Jazira and Al Hamra and off Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road. The 19 million, of course, also includes the Al Marjan Island, a destination in the making for high-profile hotels and resorts.

To now build affordable housing and extensive staff accommodation within the emirate needn’t be a distraction. Highway networks are constantly being added to, and that will work to Ras Al Khaimah’s advantage in the future. Plus the rates that developers/landlords can offer on leases should convince many organisations to base their staff quarters there. (Industrial and allied real estate is one category that continues to do reasonably well in an extremely tough marketplace.) “Marjan’s been set up not to oversee what happens in the next one or two years — it’s to serve the longer term vision of Ras Al Khaimah,” said Al Abdooli. “We are talking about the next 30 years.”

As for Al Marjan Islands itself, there was already a holding company overseeing its development. The creation of Marjan now gives the entity a much wider mandate.

Doesn’t this mandate make it the second master-developer in Ras Al Khaimah? According to Al Abdooli, “Not the way we see it. RAK Properties and Al Hamra have been operating for years — I don’t see Marjan as being the second or third master-developer. Our mandate is to create a strategy and build towards that.”

But there’s one aspect that remains unchanged from the recent past. Marjan will not be developing any hotel or other properties of its own.

“We will remain a business-to-business company — by offering others to come and invest on projects of their own,” the CEO added. “Our part will involve developing the infrastructure at all these sites and make it easier for third-party investors to do their job.

“It means there is no need for us to get directly into the business-to-consumer space.”

Shaping Ras Al Khaimah’s island strategy

Al Marjan represents four individual islands off the Ras Al Khaimah coast. Multiple hotel developments are going on at the destination.

“Three have opened to date and we have completed all of the infrastructure on site,” said Abdullah Al Abdooli of Marjan.

Meanwhile, RAK Properties, the emirate’s other master-developer, itself is going full steam ahead on the “Al Hayat Island” at its Mina Al Arab destination. There is another “island” there that will be taken up later, called the “Al Raha”.