Richard moved to Abu Dhabi in 2006 with International Real Estate firm, CB Richard Ellis, having previously worked in the City of London and West End for DTZ from 1995 to 2002, CB Hillier Parker (CBRE) from 2002. His role was to manage the Abu Dhabi office and expand the business across the MENA region within all real estate growth sectors and provide high level strategy to existing and new clients. Richard has worked on a variety of projects, from small disposals and acquisitions across the MENA region, to large mixed use developments.
Richard’s uncompromising approach to service quality and professionalism attracted the Private Office of His Highness Sheikh Suroor, seeking his services to set up, manage and run a new entity with the responsibility for the day to day activities across Etihad Towers (Etihad Towers for Real Estate).
Richard joined His Highness’s team in November 2011 and immediately added value across various real estate disciplines for the project. Richard has day to day responsibility for all 3rd party contractors, property management, facilities management, leasing, budgets and income streams. He has built a small focused team and outsources many services to other professional parties in the market, making sure quality of service for the occupants and owner is unmatched by any other development in the Emirate. The ethos Richard has built for Etihad Towers revolves around a 5 star service at all times and a unique experience for the occupiers and visitors to the development.
Please share with us a brief history on how Etihad Towers was born.
In 2001, His Highness Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohamed Al Nahyan completed his first major mixed-use development, the ‘Abu Dhabi Trade Centre’. The project combined a mall, residences, commercial towers and a hotel. Following the success of this development, His Highness Sheikh Suroor committed to providing Abu Dhabi a new mixed use development which would change the Abu Dhabi skyline forever and create a welcoming environment for people to live, work, stay and dine to compete with other International developments. This commitment is what we know today as Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi.
With five stunning towers, Etihad Towers is a reflection of everything that Abu Dhabi is and will be - modern, sophisticated and luxurious. Regarded as the city’s newest architectural marvel and definitive lifestyle destination, Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi was opened to our first residents and guests in November 2011.
The development is set in the most desirable and exclusive beachside Al Ras Al Akhdar district of Abu Dhabi and located near the world-renowned Corniche.
Etihad Towers features unique towers that range from 54 to 75 floors, with the tallest, Tower 2 residences, standing at over 310 meters high. The development measures over half a million square meters, with its own private beach, one of Abu Dhabi’s largest and most contemporary convention centres and a grand ballroom catering for groups of up to 2,200.
The residential component of Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi features 885 apartments and penthouses, ranging from one to five bedrooms. Each residential tower has a dedicated gymnasium, landscaped gardens and decked pool area.
Residents have access to an extensive choice of stylish cafes, restaurants, two levels of the most desirable boutique shops, health clubs and round-the-clock concierge services.
The commercial tower in Etihad Towers offers over 45,000 sq meters of leasable area over 53 floors. The tower emphasises on environmental sustainability, ergonomics, technical practicalities as well as luxury and comfort. Facilities include a high-capacity car park, professionally managed reception areas, concierge services and discreet but effective 24x7 security and safety systems.
The retail component of Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi features an exclusive collection of designer boutiques offering luxury fashion, jewellery, timepieces and accessories.
A five star hotel with 382 elegant rooms and suites, 199 luxurious serviced apartments, and an amazing array of beauty, fashion and relaxation amenities including the Talise Spa.
How would you describe the last few years in terms of your operations?
Simply put – busy, busy, busy! Since opening our doors officially to our first tenants in November 2011, the day to day operations have always been at full speed. We have a small operational team in-house within ETRE, but employ through subcontracts such as security, cleaning, car parking and mechanical a team of 250 individuals to keep Etihad Towers running to the level with which we aspire as a business.
We were thrilled to be approached by the ‘Fast and Furious’ Production Team in combination with Two Four 54 Media when they were seeking unique locations to film the recent ‘Furious 7’ movie back in 2014. We believe however it was not just about Etiahd Towers, but what Etihad Towers represents externally to the World about Abu Dhabi – modern, unique, striking architecture and life style that rivals other International Cities.
Corporate social Responsibility is also a focus for us at Etihad Towers. We have recently tied up with some of the Abu Dhabi Universities to take interns for 3 to 6 month periods so their students can get a better understanding of working in the business of Real Estate and putting into action some of the skills they have been taught during their studies. We are keen to feed back into the community as much as possible.
As a business, we are effectively full in all sectors, offices, residential and retail. That said, our residential units do see on average movement of approximately 12% turnaround with our residents leaving due mainly to employment demands in the regions. We now have a small waiting list and try to accommodate interested parties as best we can to match their personal schedules.
Etihad Towers was created with an eye for the latest safety and environmental technologies, can you tell us a bit more about this please?
Technology continues to play a leading role in Etihad Towers and we are currently spending time to identify service providers that can work with us to deliver further cost savings and efficiencies on our outgoings like electricity and chilled water which ultimately are costs that form part of the service charge.
We very much recognise the importance of sustainable disposal of waste and we are testing some new technology to convert all our municipality waste into a type of fuel (RDF) and stop our waste going out to the desert in landfill sites. If this technology proves to be successful, our ultimate goal would be to take all the waste from Etihad Towers, including the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers and convert it to this RDF product that can safely be burned in cement factories across the Emirates, thus further reducing their need for fossil fuels and slowing the damage to the environment from landfill.
As previously mentioned, new technology is vital in the running of such a large mixed use development. One area we have been spending time perfecting is the new window cleaning gantry system that has taken 12 months to design and install. The benefits for our residents are cleaner windows, more often and at a lower operational cost. We went from taking approximately 90 days to clean a tower using a hoist and crane to 15 days per tower with the new system. This will allow us to clean more frequently and quicker which is something we really wanted to get right for our residents.
Etihad Towers represents more than just a luxury 5-star development, could you please elaborate on what makes you unique?
The entire development was created at the outset to provide the market of Abu Dhabi with a fully integrated mixed use strategy, unlike many other major projects in the Middle East, to ensure one owner and one management team are fully dedicated to the interests of the tenants. With such a development, control is of great importance as is the training and education of all our staff and service providers to offer that little bit more to distinguish us from other offerings in the market.
Our highly specified apartments offer our tenants sophisticated, contemporary and cosmopolitan urban living with unrivalled views over Emirates Palace, the Corniche and Arabian Sea. Given the wide range of unit types (1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom apartments/penthouses) the three towers have attracted a diverse range of local, regional and international tenants, from young professionals, senior executives and many families. This has created a unique international community with much vibrancy, complementing the retail, hotel and office components on offer.
Our office tower provides maximum flexibility to the tenants with units ranging from 90 sq m upwards and our strategy since opening has been to work with tenants so they can expand or contract in the building as their business needs change over time.
One important decision we made was not to only be better than other developments in the Emirate, but create and set new benchmarks, changing the way we look at traditional market practice and processes.
We are not afraid of change, in fact we embrace it!
Take for example our retail element, ‘Avenue at Etihad Towers’. We recognized a niche in the market that had not yet been catered to – a more intimate standalone offering for true aficionados of fashion and luxury. This is the first destination of its kind in the UAE capital and we created a standalone luxury shopping destination in the heart of Abu Dhabi that brings high-end brands to connoisseurs. It is first and foremost an ‘experience’ tailored to luxury lifestyle enthusiasts, with more than 34 world-renowned brands including numerous ‘firsts’ for Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, and a ‘first’ in the world.
Some of our brands that opened their doors for the first time in the UAE capital, included Breguet, Canali, Chloé, De Grisogono, Fauchon Le Café, Givenchy, Giuseppe Zanotti, Hermès, Herve Leger, Kiton, Lanvin, ManoloBlahnik, OfficinePanerai, Salvatore Ferragamo, Stefano Ricci and Tom Ford.
In fact, the Stephane Rolland boutique marks the brand’s very first boutique worldwide.
We wanted our brand portfolio to represent an exquisite selection of fashion, jewellery, accessories and timepieces that caters to the taste of both men and women.
What are the future challenges ahead for Etihad Towers?
Over the last few years Abu Dhabi has seen an increase in the supply of residential apartments, office accommodation and hotel rooms, which has encouraged a competitive leasing market across the City. It is therefore important to position ourselves in the correct way to ensure we remain ahead of the leasing curve, distinguish ourselves from the competition and minimise our vacancy levels.
Etihad Towers is a diversified community with over 60 different nationalities now living here; it is therefore essential that the operational side remains flexible to be attractive and attentive to all our residents, office workers and visitors. Careful consideration of our daily operations is taken seriously given the variety of tenants that the development appeals too; families, couples and young professionals alike.
Not so much a challenge, but a way of life for the Management Team within ETRE, is to maintain the high standards already achieved and look to improve further the overall living and visiting experience for our residents and guests. We are by no means perfect and we are faced with operational challenges every day, however it remains the aim of the team to deal efficiently and effectively with whatever challenge they face.