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How Nabil AlKindi Is Reshaping Dubai International Financial Centre
(28 September 2017)

 

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) first opened in 2004, creating a new financial hub to serve the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Through a combination of offering international standards of regulation, common law courts, and high quality business premises, it has flourished. Mindful of future trends, the DIFC is evolving to match the changes in the global economy. 

Nabil AlKindi, Chief Real Estate Officer of DIFC, spoke to Knight Frank about plans for the Centre’s future.

It is surprising to think that the DIFC was only established in 2004, given its size today. How has such rapid growth been achieved?

Having begun with 19 companies and 75 professionals in 2004, DIFC is now home to over 1,750 firms with close to 22,000 employees – milestones of which we are enormously proud.

DIFC serves a broad market, spanning the MEASA region. DIFC was conceived as a much-needed gateway to this market, and has quickly achieved a strong track record as a financial hub where ease of doing business is paramount. Our large, well-regulated and best in class ecosystem has, and continues to attract top financial and professional services firms from around the world.

As part of our 2024 Strategy, we plan to grow threefold with the aim of becoming a global hub for the South-South economic corridor. The development of the DIFC master plan is an integral component in this growth strategy, as we aim to have 50,000 professionals working in the district by 2024.

In most Global Cities more retail, leisure, culture, and homes are appearing in city centres. How is the DIFC responding to this trend? 

In the world’s most popular cities for lifestyle and business, the trend is moving away from single-use zoning to mixed-use developments. Rather than isolated office towers, business parks and shopping malls, people now want their offices and homes to be located at the heart of vibrant, integrated districts with easily accessible amenities and a community focused, neighbourhood feel.

In keeping with Dubai’s reputation as a modern, forward-looking city, DIFC is ahead of this trend. We have always been more than a financial centre; we are also an active community of shops, offices, residential apartments, hotels, cafes and restaurants, art galleries, parks and open spaces.

More than 20,000 people come to work here every day, and they also take advantage of our world-class amenities and events, staying after work for dinner, exhibition openings, the gym, socialising or events.

We are also increasing our retail offering with the 660,000 sq ft Gate Avenue at DIFC, which will become the dynamic epicentre of the financial district when it opens in 2018, with more than 200 prime retail, dining and entertainment locations.

Gate Avenue at DIFC will feature iconic design, including a series of miniature gates and a large, modern mosque, creating a vibrant urban living centre. The development will seamlessly connect all the various elements and buildings within the district through a beautiful underground space and an open-air promenade of around 1 km, to serve office workers, residents and visitors alike.

Gate Avenue at DIFC reinforces the Centre’s offering as a premier destination for lifestyle, business and finance. Our exceptional infrastructure and quality of life draw employees and visitors not just from elsewhere in the UAE, but also from around the world, and we’re proud of our contribution to developing Dubai’s reputation as a global business and tourism hub. As part of the 2024 Strategy, DIFC continues to develop with the ambition to attract thousands more individuals and businesses in mind.

In DIFC’s Gate Village, The Exchange is currently under construction and will offer an additional 114,000 sq ft of office space and 33,000 sq ft of retail space from 2018. A concourse floor, located on the podium level of The Exchange, will offer two world class restaurants, fronting onto ‘The Exchange Square’, a landscaped piazza.

There will be additional restaurant space on the rooftop. The development will include a state-of-the-art business centre, and seven floors of off ice space. Long-standing DIFC tenant, Nasdaq Dubai will also relocate to The Exchange.

In five years’ time, what will be the characteristics that make an office building ‘best in class’?

Modern, forward-thinking multinationals and entrepreneurs are already looking to locate in safe, vibrant neighbourhoods in trendy global hubs like San Francisco, Tokyo or Dubai.

Companies are looking for areas where their employees don’t just come to work, but can also plan their breakfast meetings, break out of the office into stylish coworking zones, check in on the go with free Wi-Fi, shop or work out on their lunch breaks and hang out after hours for cultural activities.

DIFC is a vibrant mixed-use community, which offers a variety of cultural activities, retail, dining and entertainment, enhancing the quality of work life for our member companies and residents. The district is master planned with all the necessities and luxuries of modern life within walking distance.

With qualified candidates in high demand, sophisticated, high quality office space is a key perk for attracting top recruits – and as social issues become embedded in the vision of many companies, environmentally friendly infrastructure, walkability and public transport links are becoming important.

DIFC is committed to increasing the attractiveness of our commercial space, by offering innovative, energy-efficient offices equipped with next-generation telecoms connectivity.

In five years’ time, four walls and a computer will not be enough. Integrated mixed-use developments like DIFC offer dining, amenities and a sense of being engaged within an active community. We need to offer more thoughtfully planned urban districts, which combine business and office space with all the pleasures and necessities of modern life, smart infrastructure and a lively culture.

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