Oussama Kabbani at Al Zorah in Ajman, where Phase 1 — making up 15 per cent of the 5.4 million square metre development — is nearly finished. The developer is finalising details for the soon-to-launch Phase 2, which will have hotels and a beach club. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Ajman: Ambitions for the $60 billion (Dh220.38 billion) Al Zorah real estate project have been scaled down as the UAE experiences a widespread real estate slump, two executives involved in the project said on Tuesday.

Al Zorah, located along the coastline of the UAE emirate of Ajman, will aim to accommodate some 50,000 people, down from an original goal of 200,000, Oussama Kabbani, the chief operating officer of Lebanese developer Solidere International Ltd, said.

Solidere is building Al Zorah jointly with the government of Ajman, one of the smallest emirates of the seven-member UAE federation, which has been trying to catch up with more developed neighbours in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The project’s chief executive Imad Dana said the development is offering relaxed payment plans in response to tough market conditions, and added that it will take at least 15 more years to complete the project, which was due to be finished by 2023.

About half of the land originally set aside for Al Zorah was returned to the Ajman government in 2010, Dana said.

The developers’ ambitions were crimped as property prices dropped throughout the UAE over the last year, with supply continuing to expand despite subdued employment growth and less robust demand for housing.

Kabbani said the decision to downsize was prudent, given the sales slowdown throughout the sector, and added that the company will weather the real estate cycle.

Al Zorah is now exploring joint ventures with investors and other developers to fund plans for residential and commercial facilities in the project, the two executives said. They were also in talks with UAE-based company Gems Education to build a school there.