One of Qatar’s largest developers has started design work on hundreds of new homes in Lusail City, although any influx of residents to the long-awaited master-planned community is still years away.
Barwa Real Estate Group recently signed an QR88 million (US$24.17 million) contract with architectural and engineering consulting firm Erga Qatar for the second phase of its Fox Hills development.
Dubbed “Dara,” Barwa has said its 147,000-square-meter project would be among the largest in the Fox Hills residential area of Lusail, portions of which are being developed by several different firms.
The vision for Lusail City – which includes hotels, office buildings, a light-rail line and homes for some 200,000 residents – appears to be materializing more slowly than many had hoped when plans were conceived in 2004.
The first phase was initially supposed to be completed in 2011. The Lusail City Real Estate Development Co. subsequently predicted the first residents would move in by the end of 2013. There have been reports since then about some tenants being handed keys to a few properties last year.
But at Fox Hills, which is also being developed by Dubai-based Damac properties, investors continue to lament long delays.
In 2007, many individuals jumped at the opportunity to purchase property in Qatar and placed a deposit with Damac. As of mid-2014, those homebuyers were still waiting for the keys to their units in “The Piazza” development.
Damac appears to have scaled back and altered the designs from what was initially presented in the marketing material. Meanwhile, the area still resembles an active construction zone.
In an interview with Doha News last year, Irish engineer Saad Hussain Ali, who has purchased two flats in Fox Hills, said:
“It has taken nearly eight years. I just want someone to give me a straight answer – when will our properties be properly ready – when will they be finished and when can we have the deeds and the keys to them?
This money was our pension, but it has just gone into a black hole.”
Development work in Fox Hills should intensify in the coming years as Barwa begins constructing its units.
The local firm starting selling units in the first phase of its Dara development last June and sold all of the available 231 homes within a day, company officials told Doha News at the time.
Construction was supposed to start in 2014 and is slated to wrap up in the first quarter of 2017.
In a statement announcing the contract with Erga Qatar last week, Barwa said the company “will be taking faster steps towards implementing the first phase of the project to conform to the agreed timelines.”
Work on the second phase is expected to take three years and wrap up in September 2018.
In addition to residential units, Barwa says its development will include basement car parks, hotels, restaurants, commercial units, green spaces, swimming pools and sports facilities.
It plans to construct 53 residential and multi-use buildings. Barwa officials have previously told Doha News and other media outlets that Dana will contain 1,000 residential units. This month’s statement, however, states it will contain 2,000 units.
Company officials were not immediately available to explain the discrepancy.
Lusail golf development
As Barwa prepares to begin constructing its Fox Hills homes in earnest, it’s also laying the groundwork for a multibillion-dollar golf community in Lusail.
Plans for the development were released in 2012 and included at the time an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course, some 4,000 homes, a hotel and a shopping complex.
The 3.66 million square meter development – which represents approximately 10 percent of all of Lusail City – was expected to be completed by 2018 when the concept was first unveiled. It’s not clear if that timeline has been revised since then.
Barwa became involved in the project in 2011 when it purchased a 50-percent interest in the property and formed a joint venture company with a subsidiary of Bahrain-based investment firm Arcapita.
Earlier this month, a subsidiary of Barwa Real Estate bought out Arcapita’s stake for QR2.48 billion ($681.74 million), bringing all of the Lusail golf course project under the Barwa Group’s control.
To help finance the acquisition, Barwa Real Estate sold two land plots in the Mesaimeer area for QR5.34 billion in a deal that closed earlier this month.
Barwa said the remainder of the proceeds from the Mesaimeer sale would help the company – which has been offloading assets onto the Qatar government to help it reduce debt levels – finance current development projects.