A renowned San Francisco columnist, Herb Caen, once wrote, “A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams”. These words come alive every time I watch the sun set behind the impressive Dubai skyline. The city, which embodies the coming together of visionaries, dreamers and doers, has been home to the world for decades; its growth aligned to the country’s grand aspirations, its character strengthened by people from almost every corner of the world.
The aspirations and demands of the UAE are changing once again as it looks to transform itself into an even more attractive destination for foreign investments and highly skilled professionals. What was once a preferred country for transient expatriates is now turning into a conducive environment for people looking to settle in for the long term. Once again, the city needs to respond to changing social fabric and refashion itself accordingly. It’s time for Dubai to enter a new era of urban regeneration.
On the surface, urban regeneration is the process of improving the physical structure of a city to support the economic aspirations of the country by creating places where people would want to live in. However, at its core, urban regeneration is about putting communities at the heart of all decisions related to urban planning. Its overarching purpose is to create a city that meets the aspirations of its people. The concept is not new to Dubai. There are numerous examples of world-class developments across the city that have enhanced the lives of the communities around them. The construction of Dubai Canal, which has opened up a whole new address for lifestyle and luxury living next to Downtown Dubai, is a prime example of the city’s ability to reinvent itself in response to the aspiration of its people. The rapid development of areas around the Dubai Expo 2020 site that includes the new Dubai airport is another excellent example of the city’s focus creating new districts of growth.
Changing face of Dubai
The visionary leaders of this great nation have set out to transform the future of the country once again. Recent government initiatives such as long-term visas for skilled professionals and investors, the relaxation of policies to allow for 100 per cent foreign ownership, and a slew of policies to reduce the cost of doing business in the country are all pointing towards a brighter future in terms of overseas investments and the talent pool of the country. Being at the centre of the government’s diversification agenda, Dubai is fast becoming a hub for entrepreneurs, businesses, big tech, and highly skilled individuals from all over the world. As the demographics of the city begins to change, so do the expectations from it. There is a growing demand for mixed-use master developments where communities can thrive. These are places that offer families a world-class infrastructure and essential facilities such as education, health care, and easy access to city centres and travel ports. It is up to real estate developers in the region to respond to this changing face of Dubai and deliver community living spaces that can facilitate the growth that Dubai is heading towards.
At Damac, we have grown hand-in-hand with this great city and always been perceptive of its changing needs. Mixed-use developments are not novel for us. We have always believed in creating all-inclusive developments that feature state-of-the-art, work-live-play areas.
From Seoul to Ahmedabad, there are many examples of legacy cities implementing urban regeneration projects at underused land or distressed urban areas. Dubai, on the other hand, is a young city that has achieved incredible progress under able and proactive leadership. We have the two most crucial factors that we need to reimagine the city’s living spaces — supportive government policies and a well-planned infrastructure that encourages people to accept new places. However, what is unique to Dubai is the dynamic energy of its communities with their diverse culture and backgrounds. That’s why developers must understand that meeting the rising housing demands is not just about creating units, but about transforming neighbourhoods and communities. Moreover, it’s about building an environment that is fit for the future, keeping environmental and social considerations at the heart of all projects and renewal plans.
A city’s real estate infrastructure represents a city’s ambition and contributes to it actively. So far, it’s a success story that the silhouette of Dubai’s breath-taking skyline paints every day. It speaks our journey so far and of our road ahead. However, tomorrow offers many new challenges and countless new opportunities for us to re-envision, redesign and recreate the city that the world calls ‘home’.
The author is the chairman of Damac Properties.