News Column

UAE firm to develop Belgrade Waterfront project

June 28, 2014

Serbia unveiled plans on Friday to redevelop the Belgrade waterfront, aiming to make the capital a tourism and business hub, in a 3 billion scheme.

The Belgrade Waterfront project promises office and luxury apartment blocks, eight hotels, a shopping mall and a tower resembling Dubai's landmark Burj Khalifa, albeit a quarter of the size at 200 metres, on the right bank of the Sava River.

It is the signature project of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's two month-old coalition government, which has pledged to create jobs and growth and turn Belgrade into a business hub for the Western Balkans.

"It (the project) will make Belgrade a regional centre and it will attract many tourists," Vucic said at a Press conference held at Geozavod, a renovated 1907 building that dominates the area and will house the Belgrade Waterfront Gallery.

The project is to be co-financed and led by Dubai-based construction company Eagle Hills, although Eagle Hills and the Serbian government have yet to form a joint venture and define a co-financing model.

Eagle Hills has agreed to put up the 3 billion ($4.08 billion) ?cost of the scheme but the terms have not been settled and it is ?unclear how much the Serbia ?government will contribute in funds.

Executive Director of Eagle Hills Mohamed Alabbar, who is also chairman of Emaar Properties, said: "We are going to create a regional hub out of Belgrade Waterfront that will be unmatched."

It is the latest sign of increasingly cosy economic ties between the UAE and Serbia. In March, while Vucic was deputy premier, Serbia secured a $1 billion, 10-year loan from the UAE to prop up its budget.

Last year, Abu Dhabi's state-owned Etihad Airways bought a minority stake and gained managerial rights in troubled Serbian flag carrier JAT Airways.

Developing the waterfront has been talked about by city officials since the 1970s, but successive governments have never managed to find the funds to finance it.

While that problem appears to have been solved, some economists now question whether there is enough demand for the amount of upscale office space or luxury flats envisaged in the project.

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Source: Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates)

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