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I have seen the future and it’s ICD Brookfield Place

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh also know a good thing when they see it

ICD Brookfield Place ICD Brookfield Place
ICD Brookfield Place is 98 percent occupied, according to chairman Khalid Al Bakhit

The most striking aspect of last week’s huge transaction whereby the ICD Brookfield Place development in Dubai got a massive injection of cash, apart from the eye-watering valuation, was the identity of the buyers.

Lunate (perplexingly pronounced “Lunette” I’m told) of the UAE and Olayan Financing Company of Saudi Arabia put up something in the region of $750 million (maybe more, the value was not disclosed) to buy a near 50 per cent stake in the building, widely regarded as the most successful commercial development in Dubai, and perhaps in the world.

If Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, both with serious ambitions in the race to be the premier financial hub of the Gulf, put cold hard cash to that extent into their rival Dubai, it tells you a lot about the enduring market leadership of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), where ICD Brookfield is located.

They surely know a good thing when they see it. The ICD Brookfield development is turning into the “must have” business address in the emirate, as well as a social and recreational attraction in its own right, giving the nearby Gate Village a run for its money as a night-time recreational venue.

Approaching the tower from the Gate building, your first impression is of an elegant yet functional edifice, all clean lines cutting through glass reflecting the cobalt sky and tapering towards the top of its 900 feet.

It’s rather like a slightly truncated version of One Trade Centre in Manhattan, which replaced the twin towers after 9/11.

It was opened in 2020 by the Dubai sovereign wealth fund Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) in partnership with the Canadian investment giant Brookfield Corporation.

Pandemic restrictions were just being ended in Dubai, and the development quickly established itself as the most desirable destination for corporates lured to the emirate by its policymakers’ rapid and efficient response to the Covid emergency. It was on the crest of a wave of surging recovery in Dubai.

The chairman of the development, Khalid Al Bakhit, said last week that the building was 98 percent occupied, which is an achievement given the premium rentals it is able to charge tenants even in the red-hot Dubai real estate market.

Architecture, Building, Office BuildingICD Brookfield Place
‘An elegant yet functional edifice, all clean lines cutting through glass reflecting the cobalt sky’

The tenant board reads like a who’s who of the Dubai financial world, with a preponderance of big law firms, accountants, hedge funds and investment banking arms of the big banks (most of which have their full HQ either in DIFC proper or down the road in Emaar Square).

But a few eyecatching names are there too. There is AC Milan Middle East, for example, and the trading arm of Saudi Aramco. Pernod Ricard Gulf nestles next to Orange Hospitality on the board (though a few floors apart in reality). And then there are those intriguing acronyms that you feel certain mask an interesting story. For example, what exactly does VAF Compliance do?

The recently opened Sky Suites on level 50 offers private offices and communal lounge facilities, taking the We Work concept to a whole other elite level.

You get a feel for the sheer size of the development in the cavernous lobby that looks out on Gate Avenue on one side and Al Mustaqbal Street on the other, and which is the pathway to the fun, non-business side of ICD Brookfield.

I have written before about La Niña, the exquisite Iberian-American restaurant that turns into a happening place after 10pm, and is well worth a visit. The quirky coffee shop/bar/restaurant Lulu & The Beanstalk is also nearby.

Head down the escalator to the next level of ICD Brookfield leisureland. The huge Guild restaurant somehow manages to combine a jungle setting with the refinery of the grand eateries of Montparnasse, Paris.

Nearby is the glitzy Arts Club (again, reviewed here before), which pulls in the glamorous crowd round the clock, but especially during the blingy evening events it stages, next door to the très français Josette restaurant, which I’m looking forward to trying having heard some great things.

The only thing I can find to fault ICD Brookfield Place is the name. Its six syllables do not easily roll off the tongue.

One Trade Centre in New York quickly became Freedom Tower, and Dubai’s newest business landmark requires something similarly memorable.

How about Future Place, which would give a nod to the nearby Al Mustaqbal street (Arabic for “future”)? Any other suggestions are welcome.

Frank Kane is Editor-at-Large of AGBI and an award-winning business journalist. He acts as a consultant to the Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia and is a media adviser to First Abu Dhabi Bank of the UAE

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