First hotel at Eagle Hills' Saraya Aqabe project in Jordan to open early next year

The Abu Dhabi developer Eagle Hills is to open the first of four hotels in its US$1.6 billion (Dh5.9bn) Saraya Aqaba project by the first quarter of next year.

The chief executive of Eagle Hills Jordan, Alaa Batayneh, said that the Luxury Collection by Starwood would be the first of the site’s four hotels to open during a phased completion of the project, which should be entirely built by mid-2018.

Mr Batayneh said Eagle Hills has been looking to speed up work on Saraya Aqaba after buying out the project’s previous developer, a public-private consortium, early last year.

Saraya Aqaba has faced more than a decade of delays and all but 60 of its investors opted to take refunds when they were offered.

“People got sick of ‘next, year, next year’,” Mr Batayneh said.

He said Eagle Hills has sought “to build credibility again”. A 60,000-square-metre lagoon, which is to add 1.5 kilometres to Jordan’s 26km of shoreline, is to be completed by the end of the year, a new sales centre and show apartments have been built and 92 units have been brought forward for sale.

Once complete, Saraya Aqaba is to be a gated community with four premium hotels – two operated by Starwood and two by Jumeirah Group – and 866 homes. The 640,000sq m site is also to house a 2,000-capacity conference centre, a water park, and a yacht club. All structures on the site, which are being built by a CCC, Arabtec and Drake & Scull joint venture, are already complete.

In total, Eagle Hills is working on four schemes in Jordan, and the value of its live portfolio is $2.6bn (Dh9.55bn).

In Aqaba it is also building 449 units at the Al Raha project, which is to eventually form part of a huge new waterfront community on the site of the city’s old port. The master plan, which includes a cruise liner terminal, is being reworked to reduce its vertical scale while the developer waits for the government to move the port’s container-terminal and gas-storage operations to a new port 20km further south. Eagle Hils expects to take delivery of a 300,000 sq m plot for the first phase next year.

Meanwhile, in Amman it is nearing completion of two other Starwood-led projects. A $350 million, St Regis complex with a 220-key hotel and 79 branded residences is due to be complete in the second half of next year, and a $200m, 37-storey tower in the new Abdali district containing a W Hotel, offices and 40 luxury apartments is expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2017.

Despite political unrest in neighbouring countries, Jordan’s real estate market has continued to perform well. Last year’s census showed that the country’s population had grown by 87 per cent in a decade – to 9.5 million, from 5.1 milliob in 2004. A Q4 2015 report by Asteco said that residential prices had increased by 3 per cent year on year in Amman, and that Aqaba had witnessed a revival in interest, especially from people looking for second homes.

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Michael Fahy

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