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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Barwa Real Estate drops $5bn Oryx Island resort project

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Oryx Island

One of the country’s largest real estate developers has quietly shelved plans for a $5.5 billion (QR20bn) artificial island resort off of Doha’s coast, according to its top executive.

Last year, Barwa Real Estate unveiled its proposal to construct Oryx Island, a 445-acre land mass featuring luxury villas with private beaches and a water park. It was also intended to accommodate several cruise ships that could be turned into “floating hotels” to accommodate some 25,000 football fans during the 2022 World Cup.

When asked by Doha News about the status of Oryx Island, Ahmed Al Abdulla – Barwa’s acting CEO – said his company’s vision had been to make use of the material generated from constructing the Doha Metro:

“We expected more than 40 million cubic metres of excavation material (to be created from constructing the rail project). We proposed (Oryx Island) to solve and handle those excavation materials, half of which were to create this island, but it did not go through,” he said at the annual Cityscape Qatar real estate show – the same venue the company used to announce the project last year.

While some are bound to be disappointed by the decision to shelve plans for Oryx Island, local residents will soon have a wealth of other new hospitality options, as more than 100 hotels and serviced apartment blocks are currently under construction.

On the high-end front, there are also plenty of these types of residential properties available in Qatar, including thousands of completed units at the Pearl-Qatar and new properties at Lusail, a 38 sq km manmade city located on the coast of Qatar.

Fox Hills

Barwa launched sales of its first 231 units in the Fox Hills district of Lusail on Monday and sold out within 24 hours, Abdulla said, adding some 100 would-be buyers have asked to be put on a waiting list.

When asked why homeowners would purchase off-plan in Lusail over completed units in the Pearl-Qatar, Abdulla conceded he was a bit taken aback by the interest among buyers:

“I’m surprised,” he said in an interview. “The Pearl is ready. Some of (their) prices are less than our price. But people trust in us and are buying.”

Barwa’s development in Lusail, dubbed “Dara,” will ultimately include 53 buildings containing some 1,000 residential units. Abdulla described it as a mixed-use community with hotels, coffee shops, spas, health clubs and other amenities.

“You will be able to walk between the buildings. If you see Fox Hills, many of the (other proposed) buildings are (owned by) individual investors. They will build it, fence it and that is it. But here, we are creating (a community),” he said.

Construction will start this year and is slated to wrap up in the first quarter of 2017.

While different portions of the Lusail City project have fallen behind schedule, Abdulla didn’t offer any comments on previous timeline targets. When asked why Barwa is only starting to build now, he smiled and said, “Now is the right time.”

Workers’ city

Meanwhile, Barwa officials said they expect the first residents of a massive new “Worker’s City” residential development in the Industrial Area to move in July 1.

Eight of the first 23 Barwa al Baraha buildings have already been leased to companies employing laborers, with the balance expected to be taken by September, Abdulla said. Some 20,000 workers are expected to be living in Barwa al Baraha – which also contains four dining halls, two mosques and other amenities – by the fall.

Barwa Al Baraha

Another 20,000 residents will be housed in the next phase, which is currently under construction and is expected to be completed within 18 months. A final phase will contain a medical clinic and accommodate senior staff in single-bedroom units.

A truck parking lot, billed as the world’s largest, opened on the site in January.

The 1.8 million sqm development was originally expected to be completed in mid-2010, a year before Qatar implemented a ban on single men working with contracting and construction companies from living in residential areas.

In arguing that Qatar is committed to improving conditions for the country’s labor workforce, the country’s labor minister made a publicized visit in February to the Worker’s City, which was called a “tribute” to the country’s expat population when it was launched.

A Barwa official confirmed that a typical bedroom on the site is designed for six people and furnished with three bunk beds. That would appear to exclude it from accommodating workers directly involved with World Cup or Qatar Foundation projects.

Earlier this year, the country’s tournament organizing committee released standards for workers’ living and working conditions that including a ban on bunk beds and a maximum of four people assigned to a room, mirroring QF requirements.

When asked about the accommodations, a Barwa official at the company’s Cityscape booth said, “Whatever the government standards are, we’ll abide by it.”

Thoughts?

26 COMMENTS

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Doha Hack
Doha Hack
6 years ago

Good luck doing anything “quietly” in Doha. This is just another example of over optimistic developers biting off more than they can chew… As my gran used to say, “take small bites, chew slowly.” Makes it easier to digest init?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Doha Hack

I don’t believe they have firmed up any plans to build the man made island. it was a proposal which both the state and barwa board rejected.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

I am not sure for whom they are building these luxury things? I am an expat with a relatively decent salary but I cannot afford these, and when I ask the people around me (colleagues, neighbours, etc.), none of them seems to be interested, including those with 30 and 40k salaries (and more). We are fine at the accommodation provided by the company and if we are given instead a good accommodation allowance, most of us will rent something decent and keep the extra money in our pockets, rather than throw 18k or 20k a month for a “luxury” 3 bedroom apartment.

I actually think there is a shortage of standard apartments (the ones you rent for 6k, 7k and 8k a month) and it would be great if they invest more in these.

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

What is your salary?

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

Somewhere between 20 and 30 all benefits included (not keen on being more accurate on private personal matters). Why are you asking?

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I understand, apologies for my forwardness, I was trying to get a grasp of approximate rent tolerances since you mentioned the 30-40k range.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Restie

From what I have seen, people on 40k salaries pay up to 14k for their rent, but if they have a big family then they have to allocate around 16-18k for a villa, which is a bit too much and not sustainable on the long term. If you are an expat and 40-45% of your salary goes for accommodation then there is something wrong in the way how you prioritize things.

Restie
Restie
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I agree, there is a certain tipping point in riyal value and length of stay, where paying into a mortgage would be a better decision financially. I’m in that situation at the moment.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

the rent market is currently oversupplied. however landloards are refusing to lower rent and are attempting to artificially maintain high rents. something will have to give, as the units released continues to increase while expat popultaion will hit a point of weakening increase. eventually many of these 20k rentals will fall.
also, several compaines, especially foreign ones in doha do rent out these expansive spaces and they continue to be in high demand. however in addition to quality they are also looking for how secure a housing unit is before they commit to 20 to 30k a month for rent.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

it’s good to see this project, along with the qatar exhibition (wtc) 80 story tower cancelled. more thought is being put into where to invest and the type of projects they will invest in. a lot of thanks goes to barwa’s new CEO, new board members, and the shareholders who are scrutinizing barwa.
also im existed for the new barwa city built which is being marketed to low wage expats. it should help fix a lot of ongoing accommodation issues and will defiantly relax the over heated rent market. however i do hope barwa focuses on the maintenance of these projects as they have proven not to be the best when it comes to maintenance.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago

World Cup? What World Cup?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

It is a wise move, the rental market is over supplied and with lusail and other developements it will only get worse, however they could solve this problem and generate more income for the country and landlords. There are many people of Asian nationality who would like to settle in Qatar but cannot do so because of visa restrictions. If the visa requirements were made less onerous you could increase the population by 2 million over the next 8 to 10 years mainly from India and Pakistan. People from these countries like to come and stay, whereas other nationalites come for short time and then return home. By using this method you would soak up all the extra supply in the housing market and also have many more people spending money in Qatar.

Jimjam
Jimjam
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Also need to reduce rents – the oversupply exists because the rents are too high.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Jimjam

So where do people live then? Just reducing rents doesn’t mean people suddenly appear…..

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

There are villas packed with 4 or 5 families. There are villas with 40 Indian workers. As rent get cheaper more families and individuals will move into single units.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Actually I must agree with you there.

Aussiegirl
Aussiegirl
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I did read somewhere recently that they are cracking down on partitioning off villas.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Aussiegirl

They intend to but they won’t. Cracking down will just blown the problem. They want to discourage it but in way will they enforce it

David
David
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Qatar is struggling to support it’s current population. How is adding an additional 2 million people over 8 to 10 years going to make thing better? There already aren’t enough schools and hospitals and the roads are stretched beyond capacity. Are these the people the expensive housing is aimed at because if anything I would assume these new people would be looking for moderately priced and affordable housing not expensive “luxury” housing. The shortage of decent and affordable housing is already bad enough.

Now, if after the World Cup and as you get closer to 2030 you see a real drawn down in expats and Qatar is looking to boost it’s population then yes maybe something like this makes sense, but I am not sure Qatar would ever be super excited about an additional 2 million people from India and Pakistan moving into the country.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  David

Fully agree. If anything Qatar wants to discourage people from moving with their families. The schools and hospitals can’t deal with it anymore. This is why there are more and more visa restrictions.

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

Fox Hills??? This land is flat, in order to be on a high place you have to go to the Tornado tower or drive on the Al Jaidah flyover……….

PlanetCitizen
PlanetCitizen
6 years ago

The workers city to me looks more like an evolved version of a concentration camp….

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  PlanetCitizen

How so ? How is this different for any low income housing in the US or UK? Or should they make space for low income expats at the st Regis ?

PlanetCitizen
PlanetCitizen
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

3 bunk beds with 6 people in one room…..where do they have such housing plans in the US and UK?! I can understand two in one room, without bunk beds.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  PlanetCitizen

?!? There is currently zero tenants in the area ! Where in this city did you find nine people occupying one room?

PlanetCitizen
PlanetCitizen
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I am pointing out to the housing plan and the intentions of the management. It does not seem right that workers for the World Cup and Qatar Foundation projects get special preferences as per the Workers Charter Rights but the rest of the labor force in Qatar do not get the same facilities at an equal footing. It does remind me of International city in Dubai where the management would bend the rules to cash in.

Knowing that Football is the most celebrated sport in the World, after the Brazil world cup, Russia but mostly Qatar will be in the International spot light, Lets hope we got a robust management in place to implement the basic rights for these workers.

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