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Abu Dhabi developer spots opportunity in Latvia

Visitors admire the House of the Blackheads in Riga, which Eagle Properties hope will be 'the new centre of Europe' Chun Ju Wu/Alamy via Reuters
Visitors admire the House of the Blackheads in Riga, which Eagle Hills Properties hopes will be 'the new centre of Europe'
  • Developer announces €3bn scheme
  • Declares Riga ‘the new centre of Europe’
  • European plots attract UAE investors

Abu Dhabi developer Eagle Hills Properties announced a €3 billion ($3.25 billion) investment in the Latvian capital city of Riga, as the UAE continues its investment drive into Europe.

Eagle Hills’ Riga Waterfront, which was unveiled on Thursday, will ultimately encompass 8,000 luxury homes for 30,000 residents on a redeveloped site along 5 kilometres at the crossroads of the Daugava River and the Baltic Sea.

The project will also include a 1,000-room hotel and amenities ranging from a mall, schools, community centres, ice-skating rinks and a cruise terminal. 

Mohamed Alabbar, who founded Dubai’s developer Emaar Properties and is now chairman of Eagle Hills Properties, said in a statement on Thursday that the project would help position Riga at “the new centre of Europe”. 

The company said in a press release that putting €250,000 or more into the new Riga Waterfront would give buyers access to Latvia’s citizenship-by-investment, or golden-visa, programme, and thereby the European Union.

The golden visa scheme had a strong start in 2010, but has felt the impact of the government’s ban on applicants from Russia and Belarus following the former’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Only 17 applications were approved in the first six months of 2023, the last period for which the Latvian Ministry of the Interior made data available. 

Chinese, Vietnamese and Ukrainian nationals took the lion’s share of golden visas in that time period. It’s not clear whether any Gulf investors were among the successful applicants. 

The controversial golden visa programme could be on the Latvian government’s chopping block, however: as recently as last November a draft law was proposed to end the scheme. 

Cafeteria, Indoors, Restaurant Mohamed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Eagle Hills Properties, announced the launch of Riga Waterfront on ThursdayWam
Mohamed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Eagle Hills Properties, announced the launch of Riga Waterfront on Thursday

The Riga deal comes only a week after two other Emirati real estate companies signed a deal with a Spanish company to build a high-end residential project in the southern city of Marbella.

Eagle Hills and other Emirati developers are pouring billions into real estate projects across Europe.

In March, Eagle Hills announced another €5.5 billion ($6 billion) investment to revitalise a struggling area of Hungary’s capital Budapest.

Since 2015 the developer has also spent $3 billion on building an apartment complex along the River Sava in Serbia, named Belgrade Waterfront, and has committed $2.5 billion to building a marina and residential community about 30km outside the Albanian capital of Tirana.

Dubai’s DP World is separately developing new infrastructure at the Port of Constanta in Romania.

Aldar, Abu Dhabi’s largest developer, has also been on a roll in Europe, with the acquisition of UK real estate firm London Square at the end of last year and, more recently, a partnership with Carlyle Europe Realty, the real estate arm of the namesake American fund manager.  

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