Abu Dhabi’s decision to launch its new capital district this year will surprise many observers of the emirate’s real estate and project market. When revealed as part of the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 urban masterplan last year, the project appeared to be a long-term objective of the government rather than a project that will start in just over one year’s time.

The sheer ambition of the project is enormous. It will be a new civic centre, with national monuments, landmark buildings, boulevards, parks, embassies and universities.

It will be the UAE’s answer to the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe in Paris, or London’s Marble Arch and Buckingham Palace. Outside the civic areas, the project will offer large sprawling suburbs to house Emiratis that work in nearby government buildings, offices, hospitals and universities.

The project is an important one for Abu Dhabi’s reputation. Iconic projects in Dubai such as the Burj al-Arab and the Palm Jumeirah have meant the majority of international attention has focused on the capital’s neighbour.

Economics also play a part. For the project to move ahead so quickly, Abu Dhabi clearly feels market conditions are right.

At last year’s launch, the Urban Planning Council claimed it would accelerate projects as needed, and it is clear that with rental and property prices continuing to rise, Abu Dhabi desperately needs more real estate.

The project will also create opportunities for the construction industry. On the surface, it would seem the last thing contractors need is more projects, but Abu Dhabi’s real estate boom has for the most part been an international affair that has managed to entice new players to enter the market to supplement existing A-grade contractors.

With its large areas of low-density development, it is hoped the capital district will create work for the more traditional local contractors that have so far been excluded from many of Abu Dhabi’s projects.