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Sun 28 Aug 2011 12:28 PM

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Sowwah Square to lease remaining towers by year-end

Abu Dhabi’s answer to Canary Wharf has rented 40% of leasable space, says developer

Sowwah Square to lease remaining towers by year-end
The planned financial hub will include four towers of office space, a retail centre and the new Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange

Sowwah Square, the
heart of Abu Dhabi’s planned business district, Sowwah Island, will release its
remaining two office towers to lease by the end of the year, the developer
behind the project has said.

The planned
financial hub, billed as the emirate’s answer to London’s Canary Wharf, will
play host to four office towers with 183,000 sq m of leasable space, overlooking prime retail space and
the newly-built Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

Around 40 percent
of the development has already been leased, said the executive director
of developer Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, Peter Wilding.

“Tower one [Al Sila] and tower four [Al Khatem] have had
great success in the pre-lease market. These two towers are substantially
leased. Overall, we’ve leased around 40 percent of the entire development,” he told
Arabian Business.

Tenants include such top-end British law firms as Clifford
Chance and Norton Rose Group, alongside financial firms JP Morgan, Gulf
Capital, and Dunia Finance.

“At the launch of Sowwah, which is planned for the end of
the year, we will release towers two [Al Sarab] and three [Al Maqam] onto the
leasing market,” Wilding said.

The launch date for
development, located off the coast of Abu Dhabi island, was initially scheduled
for the close of 2010, but was pushed back by a year due to construction
delays.

Sowwah Square’s 33,000
sq m retail centre is now expected to complete within two years, while the
project’s Rosewood Hotel is slated to launch next August, Wilding said.

“The new CBD [central business district] is coming to life
and taking shape,” he said. “For the Rosewood, we’ll have substantial
completion for the construction by April next year and we have the opening of
the hotel in August.”

The construction contract for the project’s Four Seasons hotel
– the first in the UAE – is currently out to tender and is expected to be
awarded in the next few months.

A Jones Lang LaSalle report this week said office rents
across the Gulf were likely to slide in the third quarter as foreign companies showed
more caution in the wake of the Arab Spring unrest.

The consultancy warned that office rents in Abu Dhabi would
also see downward pressure as a surge of commercial properties come online,
though market speculation has also suggested the emirate may benefit from the
fallout of foreign firms fleeing Bahrain.

But Wilding said the project did not see itself as rivaling
established financial hubs such as Dubai’s tax-free business park DIFC or
Bahrain’s Financial Harbour.

“This is not in direct competition with DIFC or Bahrain. I
think we’re complementing what they are doing by creating a place within Abu
Dhabi, a true central business district,” he said.

“What we are saying is that we are creating a new world-class
place of business equal to what London did many years ago with the
establishment of Canary Wharf.”