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ONSITE SERENITY – Construction Week visits the site of Palma Holding’s Serenia Residences

A year ago, the 78,967m2 construction site of Palma Holding’s now topped-out, three-building development on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah was merely a pit of sand overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Construction commenced on Dubai-based property developer’s first fully residential project on the man-made island in January 2016.

Kareem Derbas, chief executive officer of Palma Holding, explains: “In January last year, we had just finished the foundation work, and we then handed over the project to Khansaheb around the same time.”

In a year, Palma has built nearly 75,000m2 of the $408m Serenia Residences – The Palm, completing 100% of the structure works in the first week of December 2016. “The basement alone is about a quarter of a million square feet in size, which took a long time to build,” Derbas tells Construction Week.

“Construction wise, we move very quickly. Here, we used a very organised construction methodology, so as we were going up, from the basement to other levels, the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) work was already being done.”

This, Derbas says, was different from the way other projects were being built in the surrounding area.

“If you drive around the crescent of the Palm, some of our competitors, who started a year before us, are still doing the concrete work.”

Indeed, the MEP work was already underway throughout the building. The cladding was already up. All the aluminium had been fixed in towers A and B, with works on tower C being finalised on the sixth floor. The glass was starting to come up in all three buildings as well.

With UAE-based contractor Khansaheb leading the charge on Hazel Wong’s conceptual design, and award-winning firm Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) as the lead consultant, attention to detail was key to Palma on this project, says Derbas.

“We spent a very long time in the design phase,” he said. The interior designs were completed when CW visited the site, with the marble and ceramics already being installed.

Within the next month, the building will be completely enclosed in glass, which had just come in two months prior to our visit.

With 250 units, the project will be developed in one phase, with all three wings – North, West, and East – delivered at the end of December 2017.

“Our completion date is supposed to be 31 December, 2017, and today we can say that we are slightly ahead of schedule in the structure and engineering work,” Derbas reveals.

By the end of the year, Palma hopes to finalise the MEP works, handled by Al Futtaim Engineering, as well as the finishes.

“In principle, we will deliver on time,” Derbas asserts.

Palma is keen to complete the project as efficiently and promptly as possible, he continues, so as not to keep its existing customers waiting.

The developer had already sold 50% of the project when it launched in 2015. It then put sales on hold before launching the second phase of sales with the display of a chic, modern show apartment, complete with appliances and furniture.

The fully furnished show apartment includes three bedrooms, a kitchen, and living rooms spanning approximately 465m2, and features a large ceiling-to-floor glass window within the main living room and retractable sliding doors overlooking the ocean view.

Landscaping design was undertaken by GAJ, and covers approximately 9,290m2 of outdoor spaces, including gardens and pool areas.

Omar Derbas, development director at Palma Holding, says the project wasn’t without its challenges. “The biggest challenge we faced during construction was in regards to the basement level and the water pressure,” he explains. “We’re on the Palm, so the amount of water we have here is ridiculous, with the water pressure coming in from both sides.”

Kareem Derbas adds that although there were issues related to water leakage at the basement level, this was tackled successfully by the MEP contractor. As a one-level basement on the whole plot, Palma overcame the challenges and pushed forward, building up to the ground level, and cumulating at the ninth floor of all three buildings.

“The water could have been an issue, but I think it was dealt with very well,” he continues. “This is why we slightly over-design a few things, just so we don’t face issues during the construction phase.”

The challenges now are to perfect the finishes and hand over the project as promised. Palma is seeing interest from local investors in Dubai, as well as potential buyers from across the region.

“What we’re finding in regards to buyers, is that most people are buying the smaller units as holiday homes, while most of the interested end-users have been local residents from Dubai,” says the Palma CEO. He adds that the aim is to start handing over to buyers by January 2018.

The property market, especially the luxury segment, has seen its struggles over the past year, with market forecast to be even slower in 2017.

“It’s different from 2008,” he continues, explaining that the problem with the market this time around has more to do with micro-economics.

He says that the current economy has put pressure on consumer spending habits, with more buyers opting to wait before committing to buying property. In fact, he believes that the lack of confidence in the market has contributed to the ongoing slowdown that the luxury property market is currently facing.

“I think we’re in a phase right now, as a developer, where you’ve got to walk the walk to talk the talk. If you say luxury, you really need to build luxury; no short-cuts.”

In terms of its longer-term project portfolio, Palma revealed in January that it had acquired a piece of land for its next project, which it describes as a contemporary, urban designed community on Dubai’s mainland.

This time, however, the developer will target middle-income buyers, with an increased focus on visibility.

“We are hoping to begin construction on this project by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, once we complete the Serenia Residence project,” he said.

While the Palma chief is not yet in a position to go into specifics, he reveals that Hazel Wong has already signed on as the residential project’s lead architect. Further details are due to be announced during the coming months, he adds.

As for Serenia, Palma is optimistic that despite the effects of the market slowdown, the luxury project’s beachfront location and views of the Dubai skyline will deliver enough exclusivity to ensure its continued popularity with buyers.

News Source : http://www.constructionweekonline.com