• US-based Turner wins project management for DIFC retail spine
  • Project is part of plans to triple size of financial free zone
  • Office buildings are also being developed

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has appointed US-based Turner as the project manager for its AED475m ($129m) new retail precinct known as the retail spine at its financial free zone in Dubai.

Turner has worked for DIFC on other phases of its development, such as the Gate Building, which was built in 2004.

DIFC received bids from consultants to project management deal in May. The 14-month construction contract is due to be tendered in October with work starting onsite by the end of December this year. Completion is planned for the second quarter of 2017. The design consultant is UK-based RMJM.

The project is understood to involve building about 60,000 square metres of new retail space at DIFC, and is part of a much broader strategy to triple the size of the financial free zone by 2024.

DIFC plans to have 1,000 financial firms working in the free zone by 2024, with a workforce of 50,000 people – a significant increase on the 362 firms in 2014 that employed 17,860 people.

The growth will require significant volumes of new office space. DIFC aims to have 5.5 million square feet of occupied space by 2024, up from 2.5 million sq ft in 2014. Much of this space will be funded and developed directly by DIFC and will avoid the problems large financial instructions have in Dubai with strata title deeds in many of the emirate’s commercial buildings today.

DIFC broke ground on its eleventh office building in the Gate District in early July. The AED205m building will have eight-storeys and will be built on plot GV02 adjacent to Gate Village GV01, which is on the boulevard facing Jumeirah Emirates Towers.

Once completed, the building will have a total built-up area of about 20,000 sq m. About 82 per cent will be six floors of office space and the remaining 18 per cent will be retail, and food and beverage outlets. There will also be parking for 362 vehicles on three subterranean levels and two podium floors. Completion is expected by the second quarter of 2017.

The DIFC expects its future growth to come from three key areas. The largest, which will account for 50 per cent of its growth over the next decade, will come from Asia as part of what DIFC calls the South-South corridor.

The South-South corridor involves Dubai acting as a hub for this corridor that links the emerging economies of South Asia, Asia Pacific, Africa and South America. “This [South-South corridor] will be the focus of our 10-year strategy,” said Essa Kazim, governor of the DIFC, speaking at a media briefing in Dubai on 10 June.

Growth will also come from deepening the DIFC’s core activities, which will account for 30 per cent of the growth targeted for the next 10 years. To achieve this, there will be a push to encourage firms to do more back-office functions in the free zone rather than just maintaining a front-of-office presence.

The third area for growth will come from building global relevance by targeting specialised sectors and developing the DIFC as a destination of choice for services such as asset management and family businesses from the Middle East region and South Asia.

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